Pickles for Polar Bears

May 12, 2021

The 5th grade students of Victor Intermediate School planned, organized, and facilitated a successful fundraiser to raise money for pickle toys for the large animals of the Seneca Park Zoo.  Some of these incredible students took the time to reflect and share about their experience.

By: Gillian Allen, Shannon Doyle, Aralyn Nhek, Brody Steward, Grady Strassner, Emma Sullivan, Nathan Terrance, Ava Wozniak, and Kyra Zimliki

What led to this project?
We are 5th grade students at Victor Intermediate School (Victor, NY) and were doing research on zoos for an argumentative unit in ELA. One thing that we kept seeing was the issue of animals growing bored in zoos and showing signs of stress because of their boredom, especially the larger animals that need more space. So, after doing more research, we found out that zookeepers are working to help with this boredom doing animal enrichment. We were so excited about the work that zoos were doing to help animals that we wanted to help out too by raising money. 

One of our 5th grade teachers, Mrs. Condon, emailed the Seneca Park Zoo society to see what we could do to help. They emailed us back to say that we could fundraise for native pollinator plants or GIANT toy pickles that the Polar Bear and lions really like. We wanted to support both but decided to name our project after these GIANT pickle toys and call it: Pickles for Polar Bears!

Why animal enrichment?
Animal enrichment has benefited animals in zoos because the toys keep animals entertained and happier. The toys make the animals happier because they help to prevent boredom and keep them active.  Enrichment can keep these animals healthier, longer just like the pickle toy that we raised money for! These pickles might help keep the teeth strong and gives the polar bear something to play with and carry around. This can help keep the polar bear active and healthy all while feeling like it is playing with a toy!

Our Pickles for Polar Bears Project
The Pickles for Polar Bear project, which would raise money to purchase pickle toys for Anoki the polar bear so she can stay healthy and happy, was organized by the whole 5th grade! Each 5th grade team signed up for a job. Some classes did the announcements, some made posters, some made flyers, some put together an educational video, and some gave out important information about polar bears.

We even had kids make logos for the fundraiser! Each time a person donated, they got a polar bear sticker to show their support. The team that raised the most money got to have a pajama day and get cookies and ice cream. All of the kids got really into it!

Project Results
We started the fundraiser to give the large animals at Seneca Park zoo toys to play with to keep the animals entertained. The fundraiser, Pickles for Polar Bears, raised $5,065 dollars in just 8 days! We raised $500 on the first day of the fundraiser! We had four different teams raise over $600! That goes to show how much kids love animals and care about their happiness in captivity. Each pickle costs $250 so we were able to purchase plenty of pickles for the polar bear, lions, and tiger! We even raised enough to donate 10 100 square foot garden beds of native pollinator plants.  

What’s next?
As VIS students, we feel that there is a really good opportunity to let kids help to fundraise and support zoo programs. Kids like us can make a real difference and giving kids the chance to do that is really important!  We are hoping to choose another zoo animal, see what that animal needs, and then raise money to donate to that zoo animal. We also hope to keep researching and learning about the space needed for specific zoo animals to keep them healthy and to learn more about how zoos can provide the important education that people need to protect and love these animals in captivity and in the wild.

Our advice? As said by one of our fellow 5th graders: Look for ways to make a difference in your community. No matter how young or old you are!Dylan Pulver