The Olentangy Education Foundation (OEF) is set to hold its largest fundraiser next month with the annual Zoolentangy event, which will be hosted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 6-10 p.m. All proceeds from Zoolentangy will be used to fund educational grants that benefit students in the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD).
OEF was established in 1990 with the mission of enhancing the educational experience throughout the district. Each year, teachers and staff members can apply for OEF grants to fund student experiences and classroom tools that are not covered by district tax dollars.
Held in the Africa Event Center, which overlooks the animals of the Heart of Africa savanna at the zoo, Zoolentangy will include a meal and silent auction, as well as giraffe feedings and other animal encounters among other events. Most importantly, previous grant recipients are invited to the event to showcase the learning experiences they’ve been able to provide to their students as a result of the OEF grant program, allowing community members to see how their donations are being used.
“We are the program that provides classroom grants for innovative learning experiences for students … School budgets are what they are, and we can only do so much,” said OEF Board of Trustees and OLSD Board of Education member Libby Wallick. “If you’re a creative teacher and you’re trying to give your students amazing learning opportunities, we want to fund these great ideas, so that’s where we come in.”
The board meets 11 times each year to plan events and review grant applications, which Wallick said are weighed based on the creativity and innovation of the ideas being submitted.
“That’s the idea, how are you coming up with an experience that the students would otherwise not get to partake in? It has to be something that is going to enhance their learning in a way that is beyond what is expected in the curriculum,” she said of the grant applications.
Of course, Wallick said she is appreciative of every submission OEF receives because of what it says about the commitment teachers throughout the district have to their students.
“Kudos and props to every teacher who takes the time to submit an application because it’s a real testament to the commitment to phenomenal learning experiences and a commitment to innovation in learning and to their students. It really speaks a lot to the quality of educators we have in the district,” Wallick said.
Wallick went on to say of the event, “The best part of it is that when you attend, you know you’re in the company of others who love and support our school district. There are a lot of places you can go to anymore and you never really know what kind of environment you’re going to be in or if you’re going to be met with opposition. It’s beautiful to me that we all come together that evening and just celebrate all of the good things happening in our district, and you’re surrounded by people who care and want to make a difference.”
To purchase tickets to the Zoolentangy event, which has a capped capacity, visit www.olentangyeducationfoundation.org. Wallick estimated around only 20% of the tickets remain.