In conjunction with Robert Staehle’s visit to Rochester and Harley as a Commons speaker, we were delighted to also welcome his wife, Lori Paul. Lori has the distinction of being one of the first female zookeepers in the United States (Los Angeles Zoo), is an avid conservationists and expert on reptiles, as well as being involved in the New Horizons Pluto mission. She spent quality time with the students in Project-Based Learning (3rd and 3th Graders), Primary One, Primary Two (K-1st grade classes) and some middle school classes.
Starting off the morning, Lori Paul met with the fully-assembled third and fourth grade classes to discuss zoos and the various considerations for keeping animals in spaces that were not their natural habitats. The next project for these students is to design, plan, and research their own zoo proposals. They need to decide which animals to feature, determine their needs for thriving, propose a site plan for the zoo enclosures, and create a budget for building, operating costs, and transportation of animals. It was invaluable for the students to listen to Lori share her countless stories of zoo life, mishaps, and adventures. She held the students’ attention for a solid hour, which involved them asking her relevant questions to their own projects, as well as broader questions about animals and habitats.
From there, Lori visited with the students in Primary One who were learning about teeth and dental hygiene. She was able to talk to the students about different teeth shapes for different consumers (carnivores vs. herbivores vs. omnivores). Showing examples from a horse skull and the jaw of a shark helped demonstrate the points she was sharing.
After her visit with Primary One, our resident zoologist made her way to Primary Two to talk with those student about penguins. The children of Primary Two had recently learned all about six varieties of penguins and their individual characteristics. Lori was impressed with how much the students knew, and she was able to answer many of their questions, as well. Some questions she didn’t know, but she also shared that it was important for scientists to not know things, but to know how to go about finding the answers through observation and research.
On the second day of her visit to Harley, Lori Paul plugged into the 5th Grade Science classes of Anneke Nordmark. They were in the middle of studying about reptiles, ecosystems, and biomes. Lori’s extensive background with snakes was a perfect fit for their class discussion. She shared plenty of information about the rattlesnakes of her home territory, Altadena, California, and shared that the rattlesnake had been proposed as our national animal, but it lost to the bald eagle. The students had many questions to ask her about snakes and reptiles that are not common on the eastern part of the country.
All in all, it was an incredible experience for our students to meet and learn from a leading scientist in her field during her time in Rochester.