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Student Influencers Dive into a Night of Wildlife Wonders at Cincinnati Zoo

Middie Rising
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Student Influencers Dive into a Night of Wildlife Wonders at Cincinnati Zoo

Jan 17, 2024
Photo shows student admiring a manatee at the Cincinnati Zoo

Twenty-one Panther Influencers from Rosa Parks Elementary embarked on a unique overnight experience at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The group of fourth and fifth graders learned about the importance of conservation and biodiversity, through the Zoo's manatee conservation program.

Students learned more about how the Cincinnati Zoo is one of a few U.S. Zoos outside Florida that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. The goal of the program is to rescue and treat ill, injured, and orphaned manatees and then release them back into the wild. Before their trip, students read articles about the recent release of eight manatees back into the wild. 

The students were treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, for an up close and personal interaction with the gentle giants, including where the manatees are fed. Guided by knowledgeable zookeepers, students also gained insight into the conservation efforts and care provided to the diverse range of animals at the Zoo.

The Panther Influencers also toured the lab where animal DNA is stored for scientists to study and help prevent the extinction of certain animals and plants. For many of the students, it was their first trip to the Zoo since they went in first grade.

Passport to Tomorrow teacher, Courtnie Puckett says this field trip was a reward for the students' hard work and good behavior. "They get to practice the skills they learn throughout the year, and we use it as a leadership workshop for the students," Puckett said.

Panther Influencers at Rosa Parks Elementary are responsible for being positive influences for their peers and representing their school. Fourth and fifth-grade students can apply to the Panther Influencer program at the beginning of the year with a teacher reference. They are then chosen based on their leadership skills and character.

"Our Panther Influencers show integrity by doing the right thing and encouraging others to do the right thing even when no one is looking," Puckett said.

The students meet once a week to learn about things like conflict resolution, being a good friend, leadership, and confidence. The group greets community members during school visits and gives tours to community members and new students. 

The Panther Influencer program is led by Puckett and counselor Henry Reid. The students will be presenting their trip to the Middletown City School District Board of Education in February.

The same students will also go on a trip to YMCA Camp Kern this spring with their counterpart Student Influencers from Miller Ridge Elementary.

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