Zoo U: A day planned for students, by students

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium wanted to draw more of the region's thousands of college students to the zoo.

Point Park University's sports, arts and entertainment management department wanted to give its students a real-world opportunity to plan an event.

So the two groups teamed up to create an event just for the 18-to-22 set.

The partnership between the two organizations will culminate Saturday with Zoo U, which was planned and executed by college students, for college students.

Connie George, the zoo's director of marketing, said that while a lot of college-aged students visit the zoo, the area's universities hold more potential visitors.

Officials from the zoo met with 40 students from Point Park's event management classes, gave them a $5,000 budget, and turned them loose.

"We want to give you the opportunity to plan an event just for college students," Ms. George said she told the classes.

She said the students "did everything from A to Z," including making posters and fliers, creating a Facebook page for the event and setting up bands and games.

The students had to run their ideas by zoo management, "but they are certainly doing a great job," Ms. George said.

"We just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with college students," she said.

She hopes to make Zoo U an annual event and expects the Point Park students' work will draw at least 1,000 college students to the zoo on Saturday.

Point Park professor Ed Traversari said teachers "talk in the classroom and try to give [students] everything we can," but it's hard for students to understand what goes into planning an event without doing it.

"It's all a good learning experience," he said.

The Zoo U event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 -- $4 less than the zoo's normal rate -- with a college ID, and include access to the zoo, all of the day's activities and four bands: The Composure, Paper Politician, Crash City and On the Run.

There will also be sumo wrestling, a football toss, hockey slapshot, body painting, contests, raffles and interactions with animals like kinkajous (rainforest mammals in the raccoon family), owls and porcupines.

All of the games and performances will be held outdoors, so students are hoping for good weather. But, like any event, rain is a possibility, so students have a backup plan for holding activities indoors.

Mr. Traversari said buses will be departing from Point Park beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday to take the students to the zoo.

education - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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