The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is taking animal education to a whole new level by hosting virtual field trips to The Sanctuary that allow students to observe elephants in their habitats without ever leaving the classroom.
The Sanctuary recently participated in a 48 Hour "Skype-a-Thon" hosted by Microsoft in Education. On Nov 27th and 28th, The Sanctuary's educators used the Skype web-conferencing program to "beam in" to classrooms in four countries and seven states here in the U.S. Primary students in Paisley, Scotland were interested to learn that young elephants are called "calves." Students at a Native American Reservation in Arizona giggled upon hearing that there was an 11,000-pound elephant named "Minnie" living at The Sanctuary. Fourth graders at Dowell Elementary in El Paso, Texas asked a lot of questions about Sissy, the Asian elephant that retired to The Sanctuary from the El Paso Zoo in 2000. A third grade class at Notre Dame School in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was excited to see African elephants Tange and Flora in real-time via The Sanctuary's EleCams. The questions were as diverse as the audiences. "Where do the elephants sleep?" "Do elephants from different places speak different languages?" "Are elephants really afraid of mice?" and so on.
Cynthia Gozzard, a technical instructor at Delhi Public School in Ontario, Canada was one of 14 teachers who invited The Sanctuary to class last week. "The virtual field trip was one my students won't soon forget,” Ms. Gozzard said. “They loved the live cameras showing the elephants in their habitats. It was accessible for everyone in every way. The students left the presentation asking when they could do this again."
The Elephant Sanctuary has used web-based "Distance Learning" programs since 2009 as a way to educate the public about its work with retired elephants and the crisis facing elephants in the wild. During these sessions, The Sanctuary's staff share information through photos, video, and live-streams from the elephant habitats. With next year's completed expansion of The Elephant Discovery Center in downtown Hohenwald, these distance learning programs will be happening much more frequently along with on-site programming utilizing the Elephant Discovery Center's exhibits.
"I think this event really demonstrated the global interest in what The Sanctuary is doing here in Hohenwald," said The Sanctuary's Education Manager, Todd Montgomery. "We are so thrilled with the possibilities that exist with these advances in communication technology and all of the new ways that we will be able to share the stories of the elephants retired to The Sanctuary."
For more information about programs like these, visit www.elephants.com/distance-learning or call 931-796-6500. Visit The Elephant Discovery Center on Saturday, Dec 10th at 2:00 PM for "2016 at The Elephant Sanctuary." There will be no elephants at this event.