Primoris Academy Students Visit Turtle Back Zoo to Classify Animals

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The gifted and talented students of Primoris Academy took a field trip to the "Turtle Back Zoo" in West Orange, New Jersey where they classified invertebrates and vertebrates and experienced up-close examples of their phyla.

Students from Primoris Academy touch sting rays as part of their field trip to the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ

Students from Primoris Academy touch sting rays as part of their field trip to the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ

Overheard at the Turtle Back Zoo: 'I found a symbiotic relationship between the Komodo Dragon and the Zebra Finch!' said 4 year-old Elisa Oh, student at Primoris Academy.

What do Annelida (segmented worms), Anthropoda (jointed legged animals with exoskeletons), and Chordata (vertebrates) have in common? They were all recently studied by precocious 4 through 12 year-olds last week at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey. The Primoris Academy, school for gifted and talented children, went on a field trip to see first-hand and classify various animals from more than the 100 different species on exhibit at the zoo.

In the week preceding the field trip to Turtle Back Zoo, each Primoris Academy teacher developed a curriculum around the anticipated visit. The older students were each given a personal binder where each section related to a specific geographic area that they would be visiting while at the zoo (ex. South America, Touch Tank, Reptile House, and North America). Each binder had a Science, Geography and Art section and posed questions which were solely based on information they would observe or research while at each exhibit at the zoo. The youngest students each had little clip boards where they would sketch their observations and answer their questions.

The typical zoo experience was elevated by ending the day at the Zoo Education Center. The students were introduced by the Turtle Back zoologists to four classifications of animals by meeting live animals: “Clover” the ground hog (Mammalia), “Lumpy” and “Bumpy” the toads (Amphibia), “Kernel” the corn snake (Reptilia) and “Plume” the screech owl (Aves). The zoologists presented an interactive lecture testing the knowledge of the students by asking probing questions and then gave a thorough educational lecture on each animal and their respective class.

One of the more unique aspects of the zoo field trip for the students was the ability to use some of the Latin they’ve learned in the first two months of school (all students take “spoken” Latin as a foreign language at Primoris Academy). Their command of spoken Latin gave them greater understanding to the classification of the various animals they saw that day.

In November, the students of Primoris Academy will be visiting the Newark Museum where they will be attending a workshop entitled “Mysteries & Myths of the Ancient World, Greece and Rome” as well as attend a showing of “Legends of the Night Sky” in the museum's planetarium.


About Primoris Academy:

Primoris Academy is a private school exclusively for teaching gifted and talented children located in Westwood, New Jersey. It is a full-day school and classes are divided according to a student’s ability, not divided based on their chronological age. Primoris Academy’s mission is to provide profoundly bright young children an advanced educational opportunity matched to their abilities, strengths, and interests. The school challenges and inspires young minds through compelling academic program to ensure each child reaches his or her full potential. For additional information, visit the school online at:

About The Turtle Back Zoo:

The Turtle Back Zoo opened June 3, 1963 and is a facility of the Essex County Parks Department. From their smallest spider to the half-ton North American Bison in their Great Plains Exhibit, Essex County’s Turtle Back Zoo offers a look at more than 100 different species of native and exotic animals from five continents. The zoo is funded by the County of Essex, New Jersey as a service to the residents of the County and the surrounding areas. The Zoological Society of NJ, Inc. is the fundraising branch of Turtle Back Zoo. The Society is a not for profit organization that helps to raise funds for improvements to Turtle Back Zoo. Their website is

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