Cooperation of Business and Community Enhances Learning Experience for Preschoolers

Lemurs, llamas, and snakes- Oh My!  With help from local sponsor Information International Associates (IIa), the Little Ponderosa Zoo brought a truck full of animals to the Oak Ridge Schools Preschool in April for “Zoo at the Preschool”, a two-day event allowing children to discover the thrills of learning in a hands-on environment at their own on-site petting zoo.

BecauseIIa focuses its charitable donations on literacy, the company saw this as an opportunity to get children excited about learning at an early age and to enhance the learning experience. Because the Oak Ridge Schools Preschool provides a blended and full inclusion program for children with risk factors that may impact their ability to succeed in school, “Zoo at the Preschool” provides some students with their first experience with animals other than dogs and cats. Dr. Marian Phillips, Principal of Oak Ridge Schools Preschool, was pleased that the children had this opportunity, saying,

“This was a time for kids to experience nature in a safe environment while being able to touch, smell, observe, and comb the animals.  The ‘at risk’ children that we serve often have many gaps in their knowledge and experience base which can be attributed to lack of financial resources and/or education of their caretakers. By providing opportunities like this, kids learn new vocabulary, increase comprehension of the world around them, and gain background knowledge which are all building blocks for future skill attainment. The learning that occurred on the zoo days was started earlier by the pre-zoo activities and will continue long after as the teachers continue to tie vocabulary, literacy experiences and activities back to the events that happened on zoo day.  Connecting hands-on experiences with animals will increase the power of the books 100 fold. Part of our job here at the preschool is to ensure that learning and school are experiences that children want to continue. ‘Zoo at the Preschool’ definitely showed the kids how much fun learning can be!”

After owner of IIa Bonnie Carroll visited last year’s “Zoo at the Preschool” and witnessed firsthand the major impact IIa’s corporate giving had on the community, she encouraged IIa staff in the Oak Ridge area to attend this year’s event and be a part of a very special experience.