Zoo endowment helps children preserve the planet

A remodeled gift shop will serve as the Price Education Center.
A remodeled gift shop will serve as the Price Education Center.

Children throughout San Diego County will have the opportunity to learn what they can do to take care of our planet through an expanded education program run by the San Diego Zoo and endowed by Price Philanthropies (formerly Price Family Charitable Fund).

Educational programs funded by the recently announced $6 million grant go into effect this fall increasing the Zoo’s education program to more than 45,000 students. The program, “Watershed Heroes” targets low income schools designated as Title I throughout San Diego County. To honor the grant, the Zoo renamed a recently converted retail and storage facility, the “Price Education Center.” The Center will be the hub for Watershed Heroes and for students participating in the School In The Park program, a program Price has funded for the past 15 years for City Heights elementary and middle school students. The Center contains a 50 student classroom, a presentation area for students to interact with animals, an art studio, and a web studio to allow Zoo staff to host live presentations to schools around the world.

The Zoo’s Director of Education, Victoria Garrison, said the Price grant is “a highlight in my career.” She said the endowment will allow the Zoo’s education work to live forever.

The San Diego County Office of Education Superintendent Randy Ward, who spoke at the dedication ceremony,  said the program will help close the opportunity gap for Title I students who don’t have the means to attend camps, play Little League, and take piano lessons. “There’s nothing more enriching than hands on learning,” Ward said.

More than 500 of the 741 schools in San Diego County are designated as Title I schools, so there will be plenty of students to serve, according to Ward. He also added that San Diego ranks as the third best city for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) so we have lots of jobs to prepare kids for.

The Watershed Heroes curriculum follows the new common core standards, provides STEM related activities, and encourages students to adopt conservation habits. The program includes all-school assemblies, classroom visits to fourth graders, and field trips to the Price Education Center.

Robert Price told students from Dingeman Elementary attending the endowment announcement ceremony, “you young people are going to be taking care of our planet. You are the future of our Earth.”

That is the goal of the program, according to Garrison, to inspire children through interaction with wildlife that what they do at home will preserve habitats across the world.