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COOL SCHOOLS PHOTOS: Teens Paid To Intern At National Zoo Train And Feed Pandas And Tortoise

6:02 AM, Aug 2, 2012   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: PHOTOS: National Zoo Animals And Internship
intern helps train the tortoise

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- If you are looking for a way to get your teen off the couch and learn something new for the summer, remember this for next year:  The Smithsonian has a paid internship program. It's called Y.E.S. or Youth Engagement through Science.  We visited the National Zoo for a closer look at one of the internships.

A giant panda, an orangutan and and 500 pound tortoise are some of the coolest teaching aids a teenager could have. Moises Umanzor and Kiah McGill are in the program and they get a behind the scenes experience at the National zoo for six weeks. They made apple popsicles for the star attractions at the zoo, and also learned a lot about red pandas.

Umanzor, who is a senior at Parkdale High School,  said, "They found them first so at first they called them the pandas, and they found the Giant Panda after so they called that the Giant Panda and then they called him the Lesser Panda."

About 25 students are in the program, which is only three years old. There are four locations available.

Elio Cruz with the Y.E.S. Program said, "Throughout the Natural History Museum, they are in Paeleobiology working with fossils, they are also at the insect zoo working with the carts and animals out there and they are here at the National Zoo. They are working here at the Asia trail, working here at Reptile House."

The teens get to do almost everything the professionals do, including train Roulan the 100-year-old turtle to walk to a particular spot. It's an experience most students could only dream of having before now.

Reptile keeper Rick Quintero understands that experience --- he was an intern at the zoo years ago, and long before the Y.E.S. program. 

He told us, "I hope that we influence at least one of our interns here at the zoo to go on and do something great in the field of science and bio diversity."

It seems to be working. The panda experience seems to have really had a positive impact on Kiah.

"I wasn't really interested in science before I came but now that I'm here and I see everything I kind of am now," said Kiah McGill, a sophomore at Thurgood Marshall Academy.

Have any ideas for a Cool Schools story? Send me an email at mhydeck@wusa9.com.

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