Winter Park preschools bring zoo to them |

Winter Park preschools bring zoo to them

Charlotte Redfield, 3, sat on her knees and pressed her face forward to get a better view of Thomas, the woodhouse’s toad, inside his glass terrarium.

“Can he swim?” she asked. 

Stephanie Vrablik, educator for the Denver Zoo, explained the toad can swim and hop. She pointed at the toad’s long back legs and webbed feet, encouraging the children to use their “science eyes” to see how he moves. 

Vrablik and her team of animals visited Winter Park Resort on Wednesday for Movin’ & Groovin, a class focused on the movement of different animals, for the Grand Kids Learning Center and the Early Education Center.

Between the two participating schools, 19 children, ages 3-5, got to interact with a Madagascar hissing cockroach, a box turtle, a corn snake and the woodhouse’s toad.

“It’s a good chance for kids to get exposure to animals and see them up close and personal,” Vrablik said. “It also gives them an opportunity to ask those questions that they want to know, like why does it feel slimy, or wet, or how long it lives.”

For each animal Vrablik introduced to the children, they discussed how the animal moved and what habitat it lived in. Then the children could touch the animals, except the toad, and ask questions about them.

Wendy Stefanski, director of the Early Education Center, was able to bring the Denver Zoo up to Winter Park through a grant from the Grand Foundation that covered Wednesday’s class and another that happened in August.

She said both classes were a huge hit with the children and a great way to bring the zoo to them.

“These are things they don’t see all the time,” Stefanski said. “And at the zoo, they really can’t touch.”

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