Forest Park Zoo Receives Second National Award for Education Programming

SPRINGFIELD — For the second time in six months, the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center is being recognized for its innovative education programming.

Most recently, the zoo received the 2021 Educational Award of Excellence, presented by the Zoological Assoc. of America for its Kids Go Wild programming.

Kids Go Wild provides a fun, interactive way for school-aged children to learn about various animal species while exploring diets, habitats, adaptations, daily zoo life, and more through cross-hatched science, literacy, and art lessons. Each lesson also meets state education standards set forth by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in at least one or more of the aforementioned disciplines. These lessons were created, developed, and ultimately implemented by the zoo’s director of education, Caroline Cay Adams.

The one-on-one, hands-on interactions offered as part of Kids Go Wild bring the typical textbook science lessons right off the page. Kids Go Wild goes beyond single-program learning objectives by encouraging groups to book multiple programs that are implemented over a longer period of time. This ensures that the educator can scaffold lessons to incorporate themes, vocabulary, and topics from previous lesson plans, as well as offer plenty of opportunities for participants to engage with ambassador animals. Examples of lessons include Animal Adaptations; the Food Web; Living Dinosaurs; and Herbivores, Carnivores, and Omnivores.

In August 2021, Adams also received the Janet McCoy Excellence in Public Education Award from the American Assoc. of Zookeepers for her work on Kids Go Wild.

“The creative, cutting-edge work Caroline is doing as the zoo’s education director is truly remarkable,” said Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center. “Gone are the days when zoo programming was strictly show-and-tell. These are valuable lessons, steeped in science and literacy, that would not otherwise be available to these young students. Caroline is leading the charge when it comes to implementing a whole new species of zoo-based learning. She deserves every award and accolade that comes her way.”