Residents of the Carlisle Naples believe that good grades merit rewards. So each year, the retirement community clients travel to the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens with a bus full of Sabal Palm Elementary School students who have excelled academically during the school year.
“These kids are wonderful,” said Jim Perrill, a resident of the Carlisle Naples during the trip last Friday. “They are never any trouble and when their leader says ‘do it,’ they do.”
The students toured the zoo, went on the Primate Expedition Cruise, listened to the zoo staff speak about endangered species, viewed the Alligator Bay feeding and had a pizza party before heading back to school.
The top three students from each classroom were chosen to be a part of the trip, an honor that teachers say students compete for each year. The students range from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“This is the big reward,” said Amanda Stith, activities director at the Carlisle. “The trip is available to all grades.”
At other times throughout the year, first grade students travel to the Carlisle for activities at Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
The relationship between the Carlisle Naples residents and Sabal Palm Elementary students began several years ago because one of the teachers had worked at the Carlisle. The two properties are 45 minutes apart, but the residents sponsor several trips to the Carlisle each year and also the annual trip to the zoo.
The zoo is the climax of the year and an incentive that the entire school competes to win. The Carlisle funds the trip along with Naples Zoo, Coca Cola, Papa John’s and A&S Transportation.
“I love kids; they are great because they keep you young,” said Marvin Frank, a resident of the Carlisle. “It’s a great incentive for them.”
Frank was a tutor for a long time and now participates in all of the activities with Sabal Palm Elementary. He was one of many residents who toured the zoo with students.
“I like all of it (the zoo),” said Willy Figueroc a fourth grader. “I love the sloths; the way that they climb trees and jump so far.”
Alyson Werner, a fifth grader, said that her favorite part of the day was seeing the snakes, especially the python.
“They are really cool,” Werner said. “I love their faces and the way that they look at you.”
All of the students seemed to be enjoying the animals at the zoo, along with the presentations of rare and endangered species and the talks about conservation and animal protection. They learned about animals that are native to Florida and how they should treat them, and also about exotic species.
Since May 20 was Endangered Species Day, students also saw several species of animals that the zoo is working to save. Many of the endangered animals come from other regions of the United States and other parts of the world. Many are killed for their pelts or other parts to be used as fashion or medicine. Others are becoming extinct due to habitat loss or disease from domestic encroachment. There were many exhibits set up featuring endangered and protected animals in Florida, such as the Florida panther, the loggerhead sea turtle and the manatee.
As the morning came to an end, students headed to their pizza party and prepared to return to school. But most were seen clutching bags with stuffed animals, posters and other souvenirs from their special day.