FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — A new Fresno school is ditching the textbooks for a wilder approach. The Golden Charter Academy is partnering with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to give disadvantaged kids a hands-on learning experience about the environment.
“This is the first environmental stewardship zoo school in the nation, said Robert Golden, President & CEO. “A grade level will come to the zoo ground Monday through Friday, so one day could be kinder, the next day it could be first grade, and so on and so forth.”
The academy is part of the Fresno Unified School District and will be welcoming 216 CK-3rd students on August 9th. Golden says they will be adding a grade level each year up to 8th grade.
The goal is to provide an innovative, hands-on experience while teaching kids about “taking care of the environment, how we impact the animals, our relationship with the animals,” said Golden.
Golden Academy teachers are learning a lot themselves. Last week, they got docent training at the zoo this week.
“We got a rainforest immersion today,” said third-grade teacher Marisa Gutierrez on Thursday. “[We learned] about the different habitats and ecosystems here.”
“[They] observe the plants, see how animals survive off of the plants that they’re using,” Golden added.
As far as bonding with some of the zoo’s inhabitants, Golden said he’s talked to zoo staff about students who have perfect attendance or good grades getting more opportunities to interact with the animals.
The former NFL player said he was inspired to pioneer this program because he wanted to expose low-income children to different learning opportunities.
“I’m originally from Southwest Fresno, so just being a student that comes from Fresno, I understand the disadvantages that a lot of the children face here in our communities.”
“I think that they’re gonna be just super excited to come to school every day, you know, knowing that we’re gonna be in different places, knowing that we’re gonna be out in the world,” said Gutierrez.
The program is mostly full, but the academy is still accepting applications. For more, visit their website.