Freshman Amelia Pointer finds her love for biology through field trip to the zoo


For many, the zoo is merely a childhood memory. For freshman Amelia Pointer, however, it’s the exciting destination of a biology class field trip and a unique chance to witness textbook material in live action.

“I love biology,” Amelia said. “It’s cool to see a lot of the things [Miss Butler] talks about in class here at the zoo.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, students of every biology class at FHC boarded buses and headed for John Ball Zoo.

All classes of freshmen, two classes of seniors, and a few juniors comprised the group who got to roam the grounds of the zoo for an entire day.

“[The] purpose is to get kids outside and use the great resources that we have here,” biology teacher Kristy Butler said. “They get to actually see these organisms that we learn about because it doesn’t do it justice just to look at pictures [in a book].”

Amelia agrees with the views of her Honors Biology teacher.

She, along with other freshmen students on the zoo trip, researched certain animal species and evolutionary adaptations of those organisms.

“I thought it was a lot of work [at first],” Amelia said. “But overall, the trip and application of the things we learned in class were both very interesting.”

The AP Biology classes were assigned one animal to observe throughout the entire day, while the freshmen classes investigated many animals.

Many students spent much of their free time adventuring into different habitats.

“I’ve seen a lot of cool animals today,” junior Tyler Johnson said. “I got to watch a lot of them because we had to do observations for ten minutes. I was looking at [this python], and it followed me with its eyes as I walked around. It’s cool, but a little scary.”

FHC partnered with John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, creating an experience that offered not only access to the zoo exhibits, but hands-on activities with archived museum inventory.

It’s so important to experience biology from different lenses than just in class. The students can really appreciate the observations they’re making.”

— Richardson

“I really like the “stations’ that we have for the students to use,” biology teacher Patti Richardson said. “At one station, they get to predict what type of animal they think skulls match up with. I also liked looking at the station of bones because the femur bone of the whale was a good example of what [students] are learning in class right now.”

In addition, the stations provided material such as preserved butterflies, turtle shells, and various starfish. Worksheets found at each table helped students apply their knowledge to answer questions regarding evolution.

“My favorite part of biology is evolution,” Amelia said. “In [Honors Biology], we’ve gone more in depth than we ever had in other science classes, and I really like that.”

Last year was the first year that the biology classes went on the zoo excursion. The staff has become fond of it already and are planning to keep it a tradition.

“This year’s trip is significantly different from last year’s,” Butler said. “We changed and tweaked the assignments, but it’s still the same experience. We have a really good partnership with [John Ball Zoo], so we’ll be continuing the trips.”


Students get a sense of how important data collection is in biology research, and they are able to apply knowledge from the classroom to animals standing only a few feet away from them.

“It’s so important to experience [biology] from different lenses than just in class,” Richardson said. “[The students] can really appreciate the observations they’re making. I love watching all of my students get excited about biology.”

The zoo trip gave FHC students a memorable experience and sparked much interest in the field of biology.

Amelia is not alone in her excitement for the year.

“This year, we’re going to learn a bit of human anatomy, and I’m really looking forward to that,” Amelia said. “I definitely see myself studying biology in the future, just based off [of the interesting topics] we’ve already learned.”