A grant from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation will send all elementary school students in Poplarville on a field trip to the Jackson Zoo. 
The foundation awarded $19,364 to the Jackson Zoological Society to finance the trips and other learning experiences for an estimated 1,070 students.  “Many of our children never get to see the variety of wildlife about which they will study in their science classes,” said Sid Whitley, chief executive officer of the foundation. “A visit to an excellent zoo, such as the one in Jackson, will greatly broaden their knowledge and give them a basis for understanding subjects such as biology as they continue their education. This project will provide an unparalleled learning experience for both students and faculty.”
 In addition to the transportation costs and zoo admission, the grant will pay for each student to attend Wild Classroom, a 30-minute program at the zoo. “We’re just honored to provide these students with the opportunity to experience the zoo which many of them wouldn’t be able to do,” said Joshua Friedel, director of major gifts for the Jackson Zoological Society. Dates for the trips have not been set but are expected to be after March 1.
More than 70 percent of students in the Poplarville schools are eligible for free lunches, an indication that their families would not be able to afford a trip to the Jackson Zoo. Poplarville Schools Superintendent Carl Merritt described the grant as a “grand opportunity” for the students.
“It’s a way to show that learning is fun,” Merritt said. “Those kids will learn and never know that they’re learning. We’re going to open eyes to another whole world.”
The grant also covers the costs of the Zoo Mobile, which will bring a zoo instructor and a 45-minute program to the schools for kindergarten through sixth grade students.

Photo caption:
Sid Whitley, CEO of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, presents a grant check to Joshua Friedel of the Jackson Zoological Society to send all Poplarville elementary students on field trips to the zoo. With them are Diane Herndon, upper elementary principal; Poplarville superintendent Carl Merritt, standing left, and Clyde Dease, foundation president.