Tampa Zoo School Hatches New Methods for Positive Behavior Support

A Zoo of Possibilities

Tampa’s Park Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in the southeastern United States. Built in the 1930’s, it has grown to include a 24-acre facility of about 1,200 animals.

But the zoo isn’t just home to swinging monkeys and happy hippos. They host an Education Center or “Zoo School” for children. The school, which has enrolled over 1,000 students, was the first full-time early education center in an accredited zoological facility.   

Finding a New Buddy System

Leslie Moat is an Early Childhood Education Instructor at the Lowry Park School. She’s the two-year-old Lead Teacher and has worked with young children for over ten years.

Moat values continuing her education when it comes child development. She earned her Associate Degree in Child Development in 2009 and continues to participate in a variety of training courses each year.

Through her experience, she has seen challenging behaviors in her classroom increase. “In a two-year-old class, you often find children using other solutions, instead of words, to describe their feelings,” Moat says, “For example, hitting usually comes first.”

While Lowry Park School has explored methods for supporting social-emotional enhancement, they hadn’t found the right solution. As a result, the program decided to partner with The Pyramid Model Consortium, previously called Program-Wide Positive Behavior Support.

“Challenging behavior in young children is almost always cited as the number one training need by the early childhood workforce,” says Rob Corso, “Our goal is to help a district, region, or program develop systems that ensure infants and young children develop social-emotional skills.”

Transitioning to Success

Lowry Park School participated in PMC’s Program-Wide Capacity Building training. This process included:

  • Selecting demonstration classrooms as a model for performance
  • Onsite training events for leaders and the program’s workforce
  • Planning meetings to establish policies and procedures
  • Ongoing support to address new challenges and collect classroom data

In the classroom, PMC provided targeted training to help teachers design high-quality environments and increase their confidence in identifying and enhancing positive behavior.

PMC also assisted the teachers in improving communication with parents, from creating take-home books for children who need additional support at home to handing out visual schedules and behavior support research.

“As we entered into a partnership, we could see the difference in how working with the Pyramid Model helped the children understand their feelings and emotions,” says Moats.
Moat adds her children are developing nurturing and responsive relationships with classmates and the transition from preschool to elementary school is smoother.