Croft Zoo Release

External Media, Nov. 29, 2017

Virtual Zoo at Croft Middle Design Center Expands Fifteen-Year Partnership with Nashville Zoo

Students will use critical problem-solving skills related to zoology


Nashville, TN – Nov. 29, 2017 – Metro Nashville Public Schools, a district exceeding great expectations, announced today Croft Middle Design Center has partnered with Nashville Zoo, T-Mobile, Vanderbilt University’s Department of Teaching and Learning and the Center for Science Outreach, Dell Computers and Discovery Education to create a unique and rigorous learning experience. Together they will virtually expand educational opportunities for students. Using technology, students can work from the classroom to monitor animals and solve advanced problems in zoo keeping and zoology.


“We are always excited about introducing new learning opportunities for our students. This partnership represents another powerful example of how our strategic priorities are helping to collectively improve student outcomes while contributing to greater Nashville,” said Director of Schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph. “This innovative platform will allow more students to observe and research the growth, behavior and life cycle of animals using technology while integrating the STEAM curriculum we are phasing into middle schools across the district.”


Through the new Croft Virtual Zoo, students will study and research animal life in specialized courses using technology to enhance the school’s current emphasis on zoology. The benefits this educational partnership provides Croft students also translates into support to the Interdisciplinary Science and Research (ISR) efforts at Overton, Hillsboro and Stratford High Schools.


“Under our longstanding partnership, Croft students have been able to utilize the zoo as an outdoor learning lab,” said Will Pinkston, District 7 Board member who represents Croft and the surrounding Caldwell-Abbay Hall neighborhood. “Using technology to actually bring the zoo into the classroom is a logical extension of this partnership. We’re grateful to all the partners who worked hard to make Croft Virtual Zoo a reality.”

With support from T-Mobile and the Nashville Zoo, high-definition cameras in animal exhibits will broadcast video feeds over T-Mobile’s wireless network. T-Mobile operates a large call center with hundreds of employees at Grassmere Office Park, adjacent to the zoo. Students will access the video feeds using devices provided by Dell.

“When the idea of further connecting students to the zoo via wireless technology came up, it was an easy ‘yes’ for T-Mobile,” said Matt Beagle, T-Mobile digital inclusion specialist. “Our super-fast LTE network is built for ideas like this. We’re proud to partner with Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Nashville Zoo to help enhance the teaching and learning experience at Croft.”


A total of six cameras are placed in the zoo’s animal exhibits featuring the rhino, cassowary, flamingo, clouded leopard, red panda and red ruffed lemur. In addition, ethograms, a catalogue of behaviors specific to a type of animal, will be created for students to catalog data from their observations for classroom review and discussion.

“Nashville Zoo is incredibly excited to continue developing our partnership with Croft Middle School through this unique educational opportunity. Innovation is at the core of Nashville Zoo’s mission, and we are thankful to have the support of amazing community partners like T-Mobile and Vanderbilt,” said Chad Fifer, education director, Nashville Zoo.

Croft students will also receive support from a full-time Vanderbilt scientist, who will be heavily involved in conducting evaluations on the partnership as well as identifying how it impacts students.


“Vanderbilt University has been working with the Nashville Zoo for three years to implement project-based learning across the grades at Croft Middle. With T-Mobile joining the partnership to bring wireless cameras to the zoo, we are now able to create exciting and engaging curriculum for the 21st century,” said Dr. Jennifer Ufnar, director, Scientist in the Classroom Partnership Program.

The curriculum is instrumental in introducing students early to careers in the field and future study at the post-secondary level.

“This dynamic opportunity will allow our students in the zoology class to have instant access to live video feeds. The rigor and relevance of our zoology class will be amplified by offering students immediate access to six different species of animals that call the Nashville Zoo home,” said Jeremy Lewis, principal of Croft Middle Design Center.

Metro Nashville Public Schools is undertaking a teaching and learning transformation by implementing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum over the course of three years into every middle school. Croft is among 18 schools included in the first phase of this effort and one of only a handful of middle schools in the nation offering a dedicated scientific research focus on zoology.


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Metro Nashville Public Schools is one of the nation’s top 50 largest school districts, preparing 88,000 students for higher education, work and life. With the goal of being the first choice for Nashville families, Metro Schools is committed to #ExceedingGreatExpectations with the mission of delivering a great public education to every student, every day. The district is earning a national reputation for urban school reform, social and emotional learning and rising academic achievement. The governing body for Metro Schools is the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, a nine-member elected body. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @MetroSchools or Facebook/MetroSchools.