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Alaska Life

‘You’ve gotta make the Zooming more interesting’: A field trip to the Alaska Zoo goes virtual

  • Author: Emily Mesner
  • Updated: October 2
  • Published October 1

Mears Middle School teacher Joanna Hubbard takes her seventh grade students on a virtual field trip over Zoom, showing them a tiger at the Alaska Zoo, on Tuesday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

This year’s field trip to the Alaska Zoo looked a little different for some Anchorage students who watched bears nap, ducks waddle and yaks scratch from behind a screen.

Mears Middle School teacher Joanna Hubbard took her seventh graders on a virtual field trip over Zoom on Tuesday.

Joanna Hubbard points her cellphone at brown bears sleeping in the afternoon sun to show her students. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

“So this is what in person is right now," she said as she walked, phone in hand, to the next exhibit. "You’ve gotta make the Zooming more interesting.”

Hubbard, who has taught for the past 23 years, spent the afternoon teaching her students about animal classifications including kingdoms and domains. She pointed out the ungulates, although she was unsure if the phone screen would show their hooves, while highlighting the difference between horns and antlers.

Hubbard was initially worried about the struggles of getting to know her new students virtually at the start of this school year but has been surprised at how well it has gone.

On her way to the black bear exhibit — a request from students, who wanted to see a tiny cub recently acquired from Ketchikan — she stopped and showed her students the yaks, which cautiously wandered closer, stopping to scratch against a tree. “Dang, they’re bigger than a cow!” shouted one student.

Joanna Hubbard shows her students informational panels about wolves at the Alaska Zoo. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Students took turns writing out questions in the Zoom chat box for Hubbard to answer while she was walking on the leaf-covered trail to the next exhibit. One student asked if they had to pay her over Zoom for the field trip. She laughed and said no.

“The kids are putting in so much effort ... despite all the odds,” said Hubbard, who had one student call in from Utqiagvik for Tuesday’s class.

Fuzzy Charlie, an alpaca at the Alaska Zoo, in his enclosure. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
A sign requiring the use of face masks is tacked to a tree along a trail at the Alaska Zoo. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Joanna Hubbard shows her students the wolf exhibit. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
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