Kristen Savage of Creature Connect

Kristen Savage

Founder — Creature Connect

Published July 2023

Taking Animal Education On The Road

My idea for Creature Connect, which I started thinking about a few years ago, was to create an animal education program for kids designed to go on the road and bring the animals to them.

I live in Goshen and I was a teacher here for six years, and the most exciting and life-giving thing about teaching, for me, was bringing in animals and giving the kids a chance to really interact and learn about animal education in a live setting. I could really reach students and connect with them when I’d bring in live animals — a lot more than if I was showing them a textbook or just telling them about animals. Their eyes would just light up anytime there were real animals involved.

We’re in the process of planning a ‘zoo on wheels.’ We’re thinking it will be something like a large bus, or an RV, that will be converted so that half is a living area and half is an animal enclosure for our reptiles and smaller creatures. Whatever it is, it’ll be pulling the horse trailer behind it, and we’ll be on the road so we’ll bring enclosures with us so we can supervise all the animals. We’ll want to get solar panels up on top of the vehicle – we’ll be spending time off-grid and that’s something we’ll do to make sure we can have power. You always want to be safe.

Creature Connect is an extension of the Savage Riding Academy. With all the animal education programs we’ve been running at our location over the years, it was time to think about how we could connect with more kids and groups of young learners. Taking the show on the road, bringing a structured and hands-on learning experience to kids everywhere is what Creature Connect is all about. We’re planning trips to schools, churches, summer camps, and libraries – we’re planning to start out local since we’ve already worked with so many different members of the community.

Kristen Savage of Creature Connect

All of our educational offerings are designed around the 2022 Indiana State Standards. We’ll do a lot of visits where we’ll bring the animals to schools, libraries, organizations, or homes to do simple meet and greets, and we’ll continue to host field trips at our facility. But taking Creature Connect on the road, and leaving young learners with our Creature Kits is definitely the main focus of this project.

A Creature Kit is a ready-made kit we’ll actually bring out to a school or a classroom. The kits include everything needed — the animal, an enclosure, habitat supplies, and a curriculum. We’ll do a presentation and then leave the Creature Kit there for the class or group to oversee for the semester.

The kits contain complete instructions – including feeding instructions – and everything required for the animal’s care. We provide anything that might be needed, but the kids get to create the habitat and care for the animal, daily. This gives young learners an extended, hands-on opportunity to create a meaningful connection and learn about their animal.

The Creature Kits also present a lot of opportunities for teamwork, team-building and social learning — particularly with setting up the enclosures and working as a team to care for the animal. We also integrate online elements, including Virtual Learning Labs, that tie in with the provided kits and allow kids to track stats or even watch their animals on live feed.

This is really an integrative program. It’s basis is in providing a hands-on animal learning experience for kids; but there’s so much more to it that that. We hope the online aspect of this — we’re planning a Youtube channel, as well — will allow us to reach even more participants.

I wanted to do this, specifically, to make it feasible for program administrators to provide these types of hands-on learning experiences with animals for their kids and participants.

As a former teacher, I know some of the challenges firsthand. I designed this program to take pressure off of educators and allow them to be able to provide hands-on animal education. I figured, if I developed a complete animal-based educational experience — one that requires nothing extra from teachers and administrators, at all, and we literally come to them — I could make it easier for schools and organizations to be able to provide these crucial learning experiences.

We can’t wait to hit the road with our animals!

Written by Jake Sandock