Zoological Society instructor Heather Reiman shows children a bobcat study mount at a Wisconsin Safari class. Willa Rodencal (left), 6, of Waukesha, touches the furry creature.
There’s a special place at the Zoo where school classes come to have fun while learning about science. Fish “swim” on the walls, an imposing rhino head peers down at you and an 8-foot-tall polar bear mount towers over you in the middle of the room. Computers, micro- scopes and animal skeletons beckon children to explore. This place is called the Animal Adaptations Lab, and in 2006 it got even more exciting.
Thanks to a $30,000 grant from U.S. Cellular to the Zoological Society, the lab, which is in the Karen Peck Katz Conservation Education Center on Zoo grounds, got several upgrades. Some were designed to make the lab more accessible to students with disabilities, such as adjustable tables that can accommodate wheelchairs or digital microscopes that are easier to use for students who are wheelchair-bound. Other additions included more computers and new computer software that allows children to explore how a variety of animals survive in different habitats.
The grant also provided funds to start a program called Wisconsin Safari, which introduces children in second and third grades to some of Wisconsin’s native animals. The grant allowed the Zoological Society to buy several study mounts* of Wisconsin animals such as a badger, barn owl, bobcat, opossum, snapping turtle, fox, coyote and woodchuck. Thus children can see animals that they might not see in the wild and, in some cases, even touch the fur or hair on the mounts. Sometimes the children get to meet a live Wisconsin animal such as a snake, woodchuck, turtle or toad from the Zoo’s collection. Wisconsin Safari classes use many of the animal artifacts from the Animal Adaptations Lab even though the classes are not always held in the lab. The hour-long classes help children discover why our Wisconsin animals are important to the environment and to our lives. Kendall Kartaly, 10, of Altoona, Wis., tries out one of the digital microscopes in the Zoological Society’s Animal Adaptations Lab during summer camps 2006.
*Study mounts typically are animals that died by accident or natural causes.