Aquatic Petting Zoos Bring Lake Life to Local Classrooms

Release Date: 9/22/2017
Contact Information: Madisson Heinl, 574-372-5100, ext. 6446,

Aquatic Petting Zoos Bring Lake Life to Local Classrooms

WINONA LAKE, Ind.— The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams brought local lake animals to kindergarten classrooms around the county through the Aquatic Petting Zoo program this fall. This hands-on program, featuring four species that live in local lakes, visited five kindergarten classes this September including those at Claypool, Washington STEM Academy, Jefferson, North Webster and Syracuse.

The Aquatic Petting Zoo program is highly collaborative. Student teachers from Grace College visit classrooms to teach kindergarteners about catfish, crayfish, frogs and turtles like those found in our region. During each activity, students get to touch every animal and learn about their habitats.

Hannah Swafford, a senior at Grace College studying elementary education, taught kindergarteners about catfish. “The aquatic petting zoo is such a fun experience for all ages -- for kindergartners and college seniors alike,” Swafford said. “I love how the Lilly Center teams with Grace students and local schools for the benefit of each other, as well as the community” she explained.

The importance of Aquatic Petting Zoos reaches beyond the classroom. “This hands-on experience is a great way to peak students’ interest in local aquatic life,” Swafford said. She continued, “It raises awareness about what we can do to help keep these animals happy and healthy.”

The Aquatic Petting Zoo is only one of many K-12 programs the Lilly Center provides in classrooms around Kosciusko County. Other programs include Classroom Lake Experience, the annual Lakes & Streams Art Contest, and Lake Adventure Day. Each program provides the opportunity for students to learn about how to best take care of local lakes and streams.

The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College conducts applicable research, engages and educates residents, and collaborates with other organizations in efforts to make the lakes and streams of Kosciusko County cleaner. For more information or to support their efforts, visit  


Photo- Grace College education student, Hannah Swafford, helps a kindergartner touch a local catfish.