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Jefferson sixth grade beautifies zoo
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Sixth grade students from Jefferson Elementary helped out the Great Bend Zoo Wednesday afternoon by planting flowers. The students have been giving back in this way for the past six years, said teacher Janell Foote. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

Jefferson Elementary School sixth grade students helped brighten a new area of the zoo Wednesday afternoon.  Nestled between the black and spotted leopards and the tiger, an area is being created where visitors can relax and enjoy a good book.  It will be called the Jefferson Readers Corner, in honor of the students  who have been returning each year for the past six years to give back to the community by helping with various grounds projects, said zookeeper John Zimmerman.  
Students planted a combination of perennial and annual flowers in the newly constructed raised beds. Salvias, hollyhocks, portulacas, gaillardias and verbenas will provide bright colors against a lattice backdrop.  With gloves on and garden spades in hand, laughter accompanied the eager volunteers.
Janell Foote and Lisa Edgett, their teachers, required students to earn the chance to help through good behavior.  Foote helped get the project off the ground six years ago.
“The purpose is community service,” she said.  “The students are learning how they can give back to the community, and that it’s important because the community gives so much to us.”
The zoo is currently in the process of closing the pathway that travels east along Main Street, and as the new plantings mature, which Zimmerman said could take between five and ten years, the area will evolve and seating will be added.