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Owls and Otters and Eagles, Oh My! A Trip to the Oregon Zoo

By Sean Nisbet, Neighborhood House

“Hey, I see the Harry Potter owl!” one child yelled as they ran towards the owl exhibit. The owls were just part of the excitement for kids in the School Age program on their trip to the Oregon Zoo.

Children spent the day excitedly running from exhibit to exhibit, seeing bears, otters, and eagles just to name a few. The students spent the morning and afternoon exploring the Zoo, with a break for lunch and a game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

Trips like this are just a glimpse of the invaluable services offered by the Neighborhood House School Age program.

In a state where reliable childcare options are scarce, safe and affordable programs like ours are lifelines for working families. The program provides childcare to fill the gaps parents need before and after school. Care extends to full day on school in-service days and holidays.  The Zoo trip is one example, held on a statewide in-service day in October. The children had an adventure-filled day off, but it was a regular workday for many parents.

Being able to rely on School Age program means parents don’t have to scramble on kids’ days off from school. We give parents peace of mind.  

It’s definitely a challenge to guide 60 children on public transit and throughout the Zoo, but Program Coordinator Mars Sails said it was totally worth it. “Despite the challenges these trips present, getting to see the kids’ reactions and hearing them talk about what they enjoyed makes it all worthwhile,” Sails said.

Generous donations make field trips possible. The Oregon Zoo donated tickets and donations from Neighborhood House supporters fund the TriMet transit passes.

On top of fun, educational trips like this, School Age staff also provides homework help, tutoring, creative arts and sports activities. The program is offered at four elementary schools in North and NE Portland: Sabin, Chief Joseph, Boise Elliot, and MLK.

Seeing all the animals was fun, with surprising lessons learned about habitats too. Fourth grader Melia said if she could talk to animals, she would ask the rabbits “how they live in such a stinky place.”

The dedicated School Age staff go above and beyond to support the curiosity and development of Melia and many others.

“How do rabbits live in such a stinky place?”

Melia, 4th grader in the school age program