The Newman University Traditions and Transitions (T&T) students participated in a class trip to the Sedgwick County Zoo on Oct. 2 to explore a type of conservation taking place in Wichita.
The trip corresponded with the annual “common reading” that is required of first-time students at Newman. Each year, a book is chosen, usually a nonfiction historical book, that involves exploring issues of the past that are still relevant today.
Rosemary Niedens, Newman University associate vice president for academic affairs, said the common reading is a very unique experience for Newman students and enables them to enact critical thinking skills and find ways to connect today’s issues with historical and global ones.
This year’s common reading was, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” by Pope Francis. In the book, Pope Francis asks his readers to think deeply about our “common home” and how we care for the planet, with conservation being a part of that discussion.
Niedens said the visit to the zoo “allowed students to begin to learn of another aspect of caring for our common home — that of working to keep endangered species from becoming extinct.”
In conjunction with the topic of conservation, Niedens arranged for a lunch with less paper waste, utilizing a buffet-style lunch provided by Great Western Dining and reusable, collapsible water bottles provided by the Gerber Foundation.
Braden Barr, a philosophy major and seminarian attending Newman University, said he enjoyed the day away from campus.
Barr said, smiling, that his favorite part of the day was “that I didn’t have to wear my uniform” but also getting to know his classmates in a more casual setting, spending time with them outside the classroom.
When asked about the connection between the trip and the reading, he explained, “I’ve been to the zoo a countless number of times, so I think it’s a little harder for me to make the conservation connection, but there are so many endangered species here and the zoo is certainly working on conservation in the sense of working with the endangered species.”
Emily Kimber, a secondary education major, said the day was eye-opening.
“I liked getting to know other people today since we don’t have a lot of time in class to do that. I also didn’t realize how many endangered species were here at the zoo. I didn’t know all that they were doing to work with the animals in that way.”
Kimber added, “T&T was one of the main reasons I picked Newman. Not just because the university is close to my house, but because it had this class. I got to know more of the students and it’s a good experience to have this class to help transition into college life.”
“Seeing the connections students made with one another over a topic that’s important to not only Newman but to the community was something I really enjoyed.
“It’s always exciting when students are able to learn while stepping out of a classroom setting. It gives them the chance to expand their world perspectives and social interactions.”