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Zoo comes alive for children

Posted: Friday, Oct 8th, 2010

Heather Young/Atascadero News Missy Lamar, center, holds Maize the corn snake, while talking to visitors at the city’s booth at Savor the Central Coast on Sunday, Oct. 3.

Children under the age of 5 got to see a tarantula up-close on Wednesday. While the parents were a bit jumpy, the children ooed and ahhed at the large spider. Although Charles Paddock Zoo Education Coordinator Missy Lamar did not allow the children to touch the live spider, she did let them touch a shedding of the spider.

Every Wednesday, Lamar spends an hour with children under 5 years old during Wild Wednesday Family Book Club. She reads the children a book, then they get a chance to meet an animal from the zoo that was featured in the book.

Lamar has been with the zoo for a year, but worked for Zoo to You for eight years. Although Lamar heads up the education department, she only works part time. She said the budget cuts caused another part-time education department coordinator position to be cut. Now, she heads the department and Scott Ellis helps her out part time.

Lamar said she took the position to give her more time with her three children, who are 6, 4, and 18 months. Being a mother is something Lamar said she thinks helps her be so great at her job.

In addition to leading special programs such as the family book club, she also has special workshops held once a month, summer and winter camps, an overnight program, ed-venturous birthday parties, special presentations for schools, scouts and other groups and more. Lamar said she will do an education presentation at a harvest party at a church in Paso Robles this month. She said she will travel up to 100 miles for presentations.

“My goal as the program coordinator is to add one new experience per season,” Lamar said.

Lamar also took a few of the education animals to Savor the Central Coast at Santa Margarita on Oct. 1 and 2.

According to Zoo Director Alan Baker, the education animals are kept separate from the regular zoo animals on exhibit to keep diseases the education animals might pick up from being handled or around humans and other animals from contaminating the animals on exhibit.

Lamar said her goal of the programs she gives is to “introduce conservation and respect for wildlife.”

For more information about what zoo education opportunities are available, go to, call 470-3172 or e-mail

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