Parents desperate to find some form of worthwhile entertainment for their homebound kids will be relieved to learn that, as of this week, Miami’s Jungle Island is offering virtual online lessons for kids 5-12.
The 18-acre park located between downtown Miami and South Beach has been a South Florida landmark since 1936, when Franz Scherr had the idea of creating an attraction where birds could “fly free.” The park has continued to evolve over the years, including an expansion onto Watson Island to incorporate Parrot Jungle Island. Jungle Island provides hands-on adventures through nature and fun-filled interactions with exotic animals such as lemurs, sloths and flamingos, to name a few.
It welcomes thousands of students and teachers each year through field trips, camps or general admission tickets donated to underprivileged children and offers overnight experiences, teacher professional development, STEM education and outreach programs.
Along with all other nonessential businesses, it has had to shut its doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, with engaging and educating children as its primary goal, Jungle Island has introduced a virtual online learning format delivering fun, educational assignments on animals, nature and the Everglades.
Children are instructed to visit the park’s Facebook or Instagram pages at 11 a.m. weekdays, where Jungle Island education manager Emma Guss will post photos and a weblink guiding families to the lesson of the day, with Guss leading the virtual class. Topics cover a wide range of subjects such as Everglades Exploration, Spread Your Wings and Primate Practices. Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated as homework days.
Among the learning perks, children will get to meet some of Jungle Island’s local celebrities such as Señor Jefe (an Andean condor); Mama Cass, a cassowary (a flightless bird native to New Guinea); Luna the lemur and Rocco, a capuchin monkey, and receive updates on what the animals are up to with the park now closed.
“While schools are closed and kids are bored and stuck at home, we decided to bring some of Jungle Island’s fine-feathered, scaly and cuddly friends directly to the computers of our young fans,” says Guss, who has an environmental science teaching background. “Each assignment is full of surprises and is designed to keep kids’ busy for hours, while they discover fun facts about animals, protected national parks and the crucial role they can play in conserving wildlife and endangered species.”