HISD students get wild with visit from Houston Zoo ambassador animals

Fonville Middle School is an HISD magnet campus that houses the Academy for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Professionals. Under the direction of Magnet Coordinator Nishtha Pant, Fonville’s three-year-old magnet program gives STEM scholars access to classes developed to foster creative thinking in scientific fields.

Fonville’s STEM curriculum begins with Introduction to STEM in the sixth grade and branches out into three learning pathways: Engineering, Information Technology, and Computer Science. To supplement these programs of study, Fonville works with community organizations to introduce further STEM concepts. One of these organizations is the Houston Zoo, who visited Fonville on Friday, Nov. 3, with three animal ambassadors in tow.

The Houston Zoo brought three fascinating reptiles to visit Fonville, two snakes and a monitor lizard, that the students had the opportunity to view up close and even carefully touch. The zoo representatives also brought a weighted plastic ball covered with deep scratch and bite marks that had been used as an enrichment toy by the zoo’s jaguar. 

Fonville has collaborated with the Houston Zoo as part of the zoo’s Saving Wildlife School Partnership. This partnership includes visits like this one, and also a more targeted commitment from students to take action to save their school’s mascot animal in the wild. Fonville’s conservation initiative focuses on their mascot, the falcon, and more than 200 students pledged to create 60 bird feeders and turn out lights at night to help migrating birds.

“Our goal is to connect the community with the zoo and inspire them to take action for wildlife,” said Stephanie Gonzales, Education Programs Coordinator in charge of the Saving Wildlife School Partnership Program. “This partnership is about connecting students, especially students who do not have easy access, to the zoo. We do that with different programming, like the animals we brought to the school today, building empathy bonds, showing them animals they’ve never seen before. Our goal in conservation is to build the next generation of wildlife heroes.”

In addition to the Saving Wildlife School Partnership, the Houston Zoo teamed up with Fonville to upgrade their campus courtyard into a garden safe haven for migrating monarch butterflies with funding provided by the National Wildlife Federation.

“One of our big pushes is for access to opportunities and showing students different aspects of STEM,” said Kaitlyn Baldwin, a representative of Transcend Education who partnered with Fonville in reimagining the campus into a STEM magnet three years ago. “The school is very intentional about bringing in different partnerships for students to learn from, and the zoo is one of those. We want to continue expanding those partnerships to give students up close and personal exposure to what a career in STEM can look like.”

For more information on the Saving Wildlife School Partnership, visit the Houston Zoo’s website, and to keep up with the Fonville Falcons, follow Fonville Middle School on Twitter @Fonville_MS.