BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut – The Connecticut Beardsley Zoo, in partnership with Cooperative Educational Services (CES), received an AccelerateCT Summer Program Innovation Grant of $ 249,799 from the Connecticut State Department of Education. The Food for Thought (FFT) program will teach students and families about the benefits of fresh, healthy food and how gardening and farming enrich our lives.
Green Village Initiative (GVI), a non-profit organization in Bridgeport that focuses on gardening and empowering youth to disseminate information about local farms, community gardens, the cultural aspects of food and how to start grow food at home. GVI operates a network of community and school gardens, a community farm and a youth leadership program.
Zoo educators, as well as teen volunteers from Zoo’s Conservation Discovery Corps and Zoo Career Explorers, zoo guides and gardeners, Green Village Initiative educators and special guest presenters, will present interactive activities, demonstrations and presentations. visits with animals five days a week in kiosks around the zoo. Kiosk activities will include topics such as how owls and other raptors protect farmland from rodents; endangered heritage livestock breeds; the benefits of snakes, butterflies, bees and other insects; the history of urban gardening and agriculture in Bridgeport; composting; and raising backyard chickens.
“Great things happen when you work with great people. In partnership with CES and GVI, this is exactly what we are doing. We are excited to combine our skills and expertise to provide exceptional summer programming for all of Connecticut, ”said zoo education curator Jim Knox.
The New England Zoo’s renovated farmyard officially opens to the public on Saturday, June 12, and will be the site of many on-farm educational activities. The FFT program is particularly vital now because of the economic and educational disruption caused by the pandemic, which was felt most intensely in urban and low-income areas that already had limited access to healthy food choices. Zoo activities focused on the benefits of fresh and healthy food will focus on how individuals and families can make whole foods a core part of their diet.
FFT’s schedule coincides with the state’s proposed Connecticut Free for Kids initiative, which allows children under the age of 18 and one adult to visit the zoo and other sites in the state for free from July 1 to September 6.
CES will help promote FFT to thousands of students and families in Greater Bridgeport, provide professional resources throughout the summer, and observe and collect feedback on the effectiveness of FFT. Dr. Lori Elliott, the new Director of Professional Development Services at CES, will coordinate the agency’s involvement and support at work at the zoo this summer.
“Our ability to support community initiatives that will serve thousands of children is in line with our mission and we are happy to be a part of that work,” said CES Executive Director Dr. Charles Dumais. CES is one of six regional education service centers created by the state legislature to support public school districts. Dumais is also an executive member of the Zoo’s board of directors, which gives him “a first-hand glimpse of the extraordinary work being done at the Zoo”.
About Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut
Let your curiosity run free! Connecticut’s only zoo, celebrating its 99e year, includes 350 animals representing mainly species from North and South America and North Asia. Customers won’t want to miss our Amur tiger and leopards, maned wolves, Mexican gray wolves and red wolves. Other highlights include our new Spider Monkey Habitat, Rainforest Building, Prairie Dog Show, and the Pampas Plain with Giant Anteaters and Chaco Peccaries. You can get on the carousel, grab a bite to eat at the Peacock Café, and eat in the Picnic Grove. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is a nonprofit approaching its 100e year at a time when the mission to help wildlife populations and fragile ecosystems is more important than ever.
Tickets must be purchased on the zoo’s website at beardsleyzoo.org. Per Connecticut State COVID-19 Guidelines: We strongly recommend that guests continue to wear masks when visiting the zoo, but when guests are outside and can maintain social distancing, masks may be withdrawn. In the Rainforest Building and other interior spaces, or where social distancing cannot be maintained, masks are required. Anyone over the age of two, except those whose medical conditions prevent them from being worn, should have a mask available.