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SPRINGFIELD — Caroline Cay Adams, education director for The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center, received the Janet McCoy Excellence in Public Education Award from the American Association of Zookeepers during a virtual presentation held Aug. 31.


Adams was honored for her work creating Kids Go Wild, a multi-week, hands-on education program that is delivered to children in schools and after school programs throughout Western Mass., specifically targeting at-risk youth.


“We are so proud of the work Caroline is doing to bring these important resources to youth in our community,” said Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center. “While she certainly deserves recognition for this incredible program she created — from scratch, I might add — it’s only one of the many wonderful educational opportunities she provides for children across our region. We are so fortunate to have her as a key member of our team.”


Kids Go Wild provides a fun, interactive way for children to learn about different animal species through cross-hatched science, literacy and art lessons, with each lesson meeting educational standards set by the Mass. Board of Education. During the pandemic, Adams adapted Kids Go Wild into a virtual program, showcasing the flexibility and versatility of the program.


“It has been such a rewarding experience to visit classrooms with the Kids Go Wild program,” said Adams. “I have seen the children engage with the lessons while showing compassion and care for the animal ambassadors that accompany me.”


“I am honored to be the recipient of this year’s Janet McCoy Excellence in Public Education Award,” Adams added. “Janet McCoy served the zookeeper community as a leader for over 30 years in various roles, focusing much of her time on public education. I have known for most of my life that I wanted to work closely with animals and children, and I am so lucky that I am able to do that in my current role.”