Video+Story: El Paso ISD’s Traveling Zoo helps Students Learn

Newman Elementary School received some unusual visitors this week when Pepper, Pancho and Loki showed up to spend some quality time with the students.

The three visitors didn’t have to sign in or even show an ID card, however. You see, Pepper, Pancho and Loki are a ball python, tarantula and hedgehog who live in EPISD’s Live Materials Center.

The critters are part of the district’s Traveling Safari, an interactive enrichment program available to all EPISD schools.

“We want to introduce different kinds of animals to the students since they are learning about them right now,” said Live Materials specialist Jessica Carrera.

Carrera talks to the students about each animal’s behavior, traits and other fun facts, tailoring information for each grade level.

“For the younger ones it’s simple questions like ‘what do they eat?’ or ‘where do they live?’ For the older students, we go into adaptation and things like that,” Carrera said.

She was impressed by how much the kindergarten class knew.

“They did really well. I was surprised how much knowledge they had on the reptiles,” Carrera said. “They knew about snakes using their tongues to smell and how they hatch from eggs.”

Teacher Caitlin Wherry was proud of her students for remembering all the things they have been learning about the last few weeks.

“It is an excellent opportunity for the kids and even for me,” Wherry said. “Our whole unit has been learning about animal classifications so the kids were excited to see what we learned in person.”

Kindergartener Jake Velasquez confirmed snakes are indeed cold-blooded, something he learned in class, when he let Pepper coil around his shoulders.

“It felt really cool,” Jake said. “I learned a lot today.”

Fellow classmate Jordan Lozano also enjoyed getting to know ball python snake.

“I’m glad the Traveling Safari came to Newman so we can see the animals,” Jordan said. “My favorite was the snake because she was bumpy.”