LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Greeting a rhino, learning about tortoises and playing like turtles are just a few of the ways elementary students are taking a closer look into the lives of their favorite animals.
"They're doing crafts, they're doing games, they're having animal encounters everyday and so it's a lot of hands on," said Alissa Boothe, Zoo Educator.
For 35 years the Ellen Trout Zoo has hosted their zoo safari, a week long program for children from first to fourth grade. Teaching students about animals, their habits and how zoos work.
"It was really fun, it was a once in a life time opportunity," said Taylor Ewings, 4th grader
During the safari, students got a backstage pass to the zoo and up close and personal with their favorite animals."
"Our older kids get to go behind the scene and actually do some feeding labs with our hippos and just get up close with our rhinos and giraffes," said Boothe.
4th grade student Mason Smith says he enjoyed the close visit with the baby giraffe but he says learning more about his favorite animal has been the best part of the zoo safari.
"They're really pretty and my favorite animal is a snake because they are really pretty but some are dangerous," said Smith.
Zoo educator Alissa Boothe says the program last nine weeks and by the end of the summer they will have seen 360 students and Boothe hopes they leave with a better understanding of animals.
"To be able to get that close to that an animal and for a lot of kids it's a really unique and for some of them a very life changing experience," said Boothe.
The zoo safari continues through August 16th but officials say all the classes have been filled.
Registration for the program will be open again next march.