Science Focus Program

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Science Focus Program
1222 S. 27th Street
Lincoln, Nebraska
United States
Type Public magnet high school
Established 1997
School board Lincoln Public Schools
Principal Patrick Hunter-Pirtle
Faculty 8
Grades 9-12
Nickname Zoo School[1]

The Science Focus Program, more commonly referred to as Zoo School,[1] is a part of Lincoln Public Schools and is one of the district's three focus programs. It is located at the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States, and is described as "a small community of mature learners participating both in a traditional and non-traditional style of learning. A place where students play an active role in defining their learning environment and education."[1]


The Science Focus Program has five teachers:

  • Mark Anderson: History and Social Studies
  • Beth Briney, PhD: English and Communication
  • Emily Rose-Seifferlein: Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Physical Science, and Geoscience
  • Andrew "Mark" James: Physics, Biology, Animal Behavior, and Astronomy
  • Matt Johnson: Mathematics

Shannon Lynch serves as secretary, Mary Gilliland as security officer, and Dr. Hunter-Pirtle as the Principal.[1]


Regular schedule - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
10:10-11:35 - Block 1
11:40-1:05 - Block 2
1:05-1:40 - Lunch
1:40-3:05 - Block 3

Focus schedule - Wednesday
10:10-11:05 - Block 1
11:10-12:05 - Block 2
12:10-1:05 - Block 3
1:05-1:40 - Lunch
1:40-3:05 - Focus

Academic form[edit]

The Science Focus Program runs on an A-day/B-day block schedule, with the days alternating throughout the week. Wednesdays, known as "Focus Days", are commonly run on an alternative schedule, reserved for additional class times for core classes and applied arts. Community Focus and Research Focus are the two types of Focus Days. Community Focus Days are devoted to team-building among students. Research Focus Days are where each student is given time, resources, and assistance with their mandatory research project. Each student is assigned a research adviser. Research projects are a long term related project that is presented at the end of the year. Also on Wednesdays, students learn from guest speakers, go on field trips, or catch up on accelerated classes. Lunch lasts for 35 minutes, between the second and the third of the class blocks, in which juniors and seniors may leave campus if they desire. Students may purchase food from the Safari Cafe while the zoo is open. During the winter, students typically bring a sack lunch or leave campus to go to nearby restaurants.

Instead of having a finals week, Science Focus Program has a portfolio week. Portfolios are projects that are specific to each class that are used in place of finals. Each class has its own portfolio. Portfolios are handed out during each semester and students are expected to complete and present them at the end of the semester. Students set up a portfolio time before the end of the semester. The portfolios are presented over a three-day period with time slots of 10 am to 5pm.


The Science Focus Program's open campus is located behind the Zoo Cafe and the Rainforest Room Building. The two portables house the computer lab, a science room and laboratory, and the English classroom. The Camelot Commons building houses the social science, mathematics, and natural science classrooms. Picnic tables are set up around a pond by the portables for lunch. During the winter, students eat inside the portables or Camelot Commons. The zoo uses the portables and Camelot Commons for educational and promotional purposes during school breaks.


The idea for the Science Focus Program originated in 1995. Teachers met and worked part-time planning for the program, and part-time teaching at their high schools. The original teachers were Jim Barstow, social sciences; Deb Sharp, English; De Tonack, math and physics; and Jane Obbink, natural sciences. Beth Briney came in the second year to replace Sharp. Obbink has since moved to Alaska, and was replaced by Sara LeRoy-Toren. LeRoy-Toren then retired and was replaced by Emily Rose-Seifferlein. De Tonack, Barstow, and Obbink were replaced by Mark Anderson, Matt Johnson, Andrew "Mark" James, respectively.

The main idea for the focus program was to give students an alternative to regular high school. The teachers' vision consisted of a place where students could come and feel welcome and comfortable enough to express their individual talents and ideas.

The school opened for the 1997-1998 school year, accepting juniors and seniors. Since then, changes have been made, allowing the Science Focus Program to accept sophomores and freshmen.

In 1999, Science Focus Program created its own Key Club, partnering with the Lincoln Center Kiwanis Club. Every week, students meet to work on fundraising, community events, and volunteer work.

Science Focus Program's technology consists of a lab of Macbooks, which arrived at the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. Starting the 2015-2016 school year, Science Focus Program students each receive Chromebooks from the district.

For many years, the Lincoln Children's Zoo hosted a "Science Day" in which the public, along with elementary schools, walk around the zoo as Science Focus Program students enrich their knowledge with fun scientific activities. All students worked stations and participated.

Science Focus Program has made some changes throughout the years, but their goal is maintained: to give students the best education possible, to instill an excitement and a craving for knowledge, to build a strong sense of community, and to teach and learn together.

Student life[edit]

The Science Focus Program enrolls new students every year. Official clubs include the Key Club, Science Olympiad, Roots & Shoots, Science Club, and Yearbook Club. Former clubs include Minecraft Club, Biking Club, Dungeons and Dragons Club, and Magic: The Gathering Club. Current unofficial clubs include G&S Enterprises and Poker Club.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Zoo School official website". Retrieved 2009-05-09.