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Yerevan Zoo: A Venue for Inclusive Education

There are not many schools in Armenia which have curriculums designed for inclusive classrooms where children of all abilities learn together. But for those that do, Yerevan Zoo has become a venue for enhancing education, behavior, and developmental skills with the help of animals. On January 21, students from 135th primary school paid a visit to the zoo with their class, which also included children with special needs. The teacher and the psychologist guiding the students explained that the purpose of the visit is not only to teach children about how animal welfare is ensured in the cold winter months, but to also develop the children’s ability to find solutions to emotional and psychological problems with the help of animals.

The snakes received the first visit from the class. After the students explored various questions about their eating habits and other behaviors, the psychologist asked the students if the snakes are generally known to be harmful. Most students answered “yes”. However, a couple of students made the point that if you don’t try to scare or hurt them, they will most likely not harm you. This behavior was then compared with human behavior, and children learn that arguments and fights between people will also most likely not start if they do not harm each other. “Instead of demanding that the students not argue with and insult each other, we try to show them through indirect approaches. We have learned that this is much more helpful, especially in inclusive classrooms,” explains the class psychologist.

Yerevan Zoo hopes to become a hub for not only inclusive education, but also inclusive play and social interaction. The building of the first inclusive playground in Armenia inside the zoo will create this possibility.

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