Turtles, sharks and elephants came to St. Peter School, not in a thundering stampede but as passengers in the Buffalo Zoo's Zoomobile. Volunteers from the zoo taught the students about ecosystems, the ocean and food chains at the Lewiston elementary school during Catholic Schools Week.
The zoo crew brought with them the jaw of a shark with its many rows of sharp teeth, an enormous elephant foot, and a real live spotted sea turtle during their Jan. 30 visit. Sadly, the turtle is part of an endangered species, so the eager students could not pet the little guy.
"(The Zoomobile came) here last year and the kids loved it, so we asked them to come back again," explained Brittanie Phillips, fourth-grade teacher.
Phillips could see by the participation of the students that they enjoyed learning about the wildlife. "They bring live animals as well, which gets them super stoked," she explained.
Catholic Schools week is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. School typically have special Masses, assemblies and other activities to honor and congratulate the students, families and community.
At St. Peter's, the week included a French Toast Fling, talent show, magic show, and a visit from Cardinal O'Hara High School's Drama Club, who performed "Shrek" for the younger kids.
Principal Maureen Ingham had 34 years in public schools in Niagara County before coming to St. Peter's eight years ago. "I love the commitment. I love the ability to share our faith. We have a great team here. Everyone who is here, is here because they want to be, and it shows in everything they do," she said of her staff, students and parents.
Over the years, she has watched the school grow from 72 students to about 200. They now have three pre-K classes. She tells people, "This is the place to be."
"At the end of the day, we can do all the wonderful things we do. But when people ask, what makes your school good, I say the fact that our children leave here and are successful. That is our goal; to make sure that we prepare them for the next step in their education."
The school sees average kids, kids who need help, and kids who excel. One student is gearing up for state level Geography Bee. Another student has made the Middle School All County Chorus, while two girls made the Elementary All County Chorus.
The school is on the forefront of technology with middle schoolers using Chromebooks, interactive white boards and iPads in every classroom. This year the middle school students are using an online Social Studies program without old school textbooks.
In keeping with the Catholic Schools Week theme, St. Peter's really is a place where students can earn, serve, lead and succeed.