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Schools ‘go ape’ over Jackson Zoo

Martin Elementary School Principal Danita Hobbs could be kissinga “gorilla” if students at her school are among the topmoney-makers in a project to help the Jackson Zoo.

Martin School was the site Wednesday as representatives from theJackson Zoo, BellSouth, BellSouth Pioneers and the state Departmentof Education travel the state to kick of the zoo’s CapitalCampaign. The zoo’s mascot Bananas the Gorilla entertained studentsas officials promoted the fund-raising effort.

“They’re building an educational center at the zoo with themoney raised,” Hobbs said.

Other projects to be addressed include an exhibit of nativeMississippi wildlife and animals and reconstruction of a morevisitor-friendly entrance at the Zoo.

An incentive for students is a chance to see their school’sprincipal kiss Bananas if they raise the most money in theirdivision. In addition to their principal’s ape date,division-winning schools will receive cash prizes and anexpense-paid trip to the zoo for the entire school’s studentbody.

“That’s a nice thing, too,” Hobbs said.

There are five divisions, based on school population, in thestate. Hobbs said Martin will be competing in a division againstother schools with around 800 students.

With suggestions such as bringing dollars to the school, holdingbake sales or getting assistance from parent-teacher associations,students were encouraged to be creative in their fund-raisingefforts. Donations are tax deductible.

“As the only accredited zoo in the state, portions of which aredesignated as historic landmarks, it’s vital the we as educatorslend our support to this program in order to preserve the zoo’shistory and expand for its future,” said Dr. Richard Thompson in aletter to state teachers promoting their classes’participation.

Teachers have been encouraged to incorporate lessons about zooanimals in their classroom activities during the campaign. Thefund-raising campaign concludes April 5.