Last summer, Terra High School junior Sigal Sax worked at Zoo Miami with the Conservation Teen Scientists program talking to zoo visitors about conservation.
“It was sponsored by the zoo,” Sax says. “It’s a new program and you go through training for a few months. After that, we went out into the field and talked to people who visit the zoo.”
The training took place from January through March of last year.
“After we learned about the animals, we learned about how to talk to people,” Sax says
The teens not only learned animal facts, but also how to handle hamsters, rats and bunnies.
“We sometimes go into the reptile exhibits and talk about the animals,” she says.
Some of the teens also hold snakes.
“It would be a tier one snake so it wouldn’t harm us,” she says. “I didn’t work with any. My friends who were there longer, they are handling them.”
The program helps teach people about saving the planet, but it had another benefit.
“I actually gained a lot of confidence talking to people,” Sax says. “I learned that in my life I really want to do something with animals.”
Sax says that some of the people she approached were indifferent about conservation, but many others were totally engaged by the concept.
“The younger ones wanted to get involved; they wanted to know what they could do to help these animals,” she says. “We explained that the animals are dying because of habitat degradation.”
Although Sax loved being in the program, she had to put things on hold for a few months while she completed an SAT study program. She hopes to get back to it soon.
Even before getting involved in the zoo conservation program, Sax was interested in animals. She shadowed a veterinarian as she was seeing patients and treating the animals. Her interest in science and animals makes going to Terra a good choice for Sax.
“Terra backed me up with the extra science and you’re going out into the field and doing that (conservation),” she says. “I want to major in biology (in college). That’s the center of everything. I can go into animal behavior or environmental science in general.”
Because of Terra’s mission, school-related community service often entails going to Indian Hammocks Park and culling invasive plants such as the air potato.
At school, Sax plays varsity soccer and serves as the first president of the new Future Farmers of America club. She is also involved in the National Honor Society and the Student Government Association. Last year she was treasurer and this year she will run for Senior Class president.
Recently, Sax attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD for the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Program.
“I lived a day in the life of a naval officer and learned about cryptography, computers and code, forensic and fingerprints, biometrics, electronics and robots,” she says. “It gave me a new appreciation for the armed forces.”
Sax already has begun the process of determining what schools she will make application for admission to next year. Since she plans to major in biology, she is looking at universities that have good biology programs. Tulane and Michigan top her list of potentials at the moment.
— By Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez