At Lighthouse Private Christian Academy in Gulf Breeze, Fla., which is located next to the town’s zoo, the elementary and middle school students have the opportunity to engage with exotic animals in their science classroom once a week for a class period, reports the Pensacola News Journal.
The class is taught by one of the local zoologists, Todd Quinn, who volunteers his time at the school and brings a different exotic animal to class each week. The classroom Quinn teaches in is also equipped with different types of exotic birds, cockroaches, and fish. While he is teaching class, birds might fly freely around the room, or perch themselves on his arm or on his students’ shoulders.
According to the school’s website, LHPA has a partnership with the zoo that exposes students to hands-on learning related to animals and environmental issues, and that falls in line with LHPA’s Montessori teaching methods.
Quinn told the Journal that some of his students’ behavior, especially the behavior of his special needs kids, has changed since he started bringing in the animals into class. “If I take (the animals) out and put them in front of them, it wakes them up,” said Quinn.
Joanna Johannes, the head of the school, expressed a similar pedagogical sentiment. “For some kids who were shy and withdrawn, we saw their personalities change when they worked with animals,” she said. “A lot of kids haven’t found something to make that light go off. All of a sudden, they’re vibrant and mixing in with the crowd.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.