LINDEN, NJ — Representatives of Turtle Back Zoo — both two- and four-legged — visited Linden High School zoology classes on Jan. 31 to thank students for raising money for animals harmed by the recent Australian wildfires.
The initiative began when students in Amanda Montealegre’s zoology classes learned about species native to Australia, including platypuses, echidnas, kangaroos, wombats and koalas.
Their lesson eventually turned to the topic of the wildfires, which are estimated to have killed more than 1 billion animals.
Students were hurt by this news and asked how they could help.
“This was when I knew we had to do something big,” Montealegre said.
With just a week left in the semester, students designed stickers, sold snacks and asked classmates and family members for donations.
Montealegre, along with fellow science teacher Kelly Gallagher, reached out to Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange to donate through their matching program.
The zoo and the Zoological Society of New Jersey pledged to double any donation and send the total to wildlife hospital and rescue efforts at Wildlife Warriors Australia. In less than a week, students raised more than $320, which the zoo will double to nearly $650.
“I am so proud to see how my students successfully campaigned to help those in need,” Montealegre said. “Seeing their enthusiasm and self-driven motivation was magical for me and gave me hope in the future.”
Along with zoology educator Shatiaa Burwell, Adam Kerins, executive director of Zoological Society of New Jersey and a zookeeper for Turtleback Zoo, visited the students to thank them for their hard work and generosity.
The two zoo representatives brought along a burrowing owl, a tenrec, an emerald tree fog and a skink for students to meet.
“My hope is that this class has not only given the students a greater understanding and appreciation of the animals we share the planet with, but also that they will be better prepared to organize and execute fundraisers in the future,” Montealegre said. “This planet needs motivated change-makers, and I hope I have helped empower our youth to work together and create a better world.”