Seniors Walt Jones and Bailey Walker go on a field trip with Kindergartner Buckley Ladd

Seniors and Kindergarten Buddies take a field trip without leaving home


Seniors and their Kindergarten Buddies spent much of the school year looking forward to a favorite tradition at Colorado Academy—the day during the final week of school when Seniors take their Kindergarten Buddies on a tour of the Denver Zoo. In 2020, that trip, like so many other favorite Spring activities, had to be canceled.

But Lower School Principal Angie Crabtree remained undaunted. “As I watched Seniors spend time with their Kindergarten Buddies during each activity throughout this year, I was in awe of their connection with one another,” says Crabtree. “Our Kindergartners truly view their Senior Buddy as a mentor at CA, so I  knew we needed a culminating experience to celebrate their time together.”

Crabtree and Senior Dean Gabe Bernstein organized an elaborate schedule of Zoom meetings, so that every Kindergartner and their Senior Buddies could still get an individual virtual trip with a scavenger hunt for specific animals and fish. Bright and early on a Tuesday morning, the groups met via Zoom.

Buckley Ladd, Walt Jones, Bailey Walker

“How are you?” asks Senior Walt Jones, when he greets his Kindergarten Buddy, Buckley Ladd.

“How are you?” responds Buckley, delighted to see his buddies. He is prepared, with the list of animals and fish printed out and in front of him.

The group, including Senior Bailey Walker, start their virtual scavenger hunt at the San Diego Zoo. The Seniors help him tour the zoo online, as Buckley carefully sounds out the names of the animals: “Po….lar Bear. Ti……ger. Zeee…..bra!”

“Let’s go see the giraffe!” says Buckley. “It’s my favorite animal.”

“My favorite is the penguin,” laughs Walt.

“Let’s go to the aquarium, please!” asks Buckley. And with a couple of clicks, Jones moves the group to the Monterey Aquarium.

“Jellyfish can sting you,” Walt tells Buckley. “I was stung once.”

“Do you still have the sting?” asks Buckley, wide-eyed.

The tour of the aquarium leads the group to a discussion of snorkeling, scuba diving, turtles, sharks, sea otters, and octopuses.

“I tried to eat octopus once,” Buckley announces. “I did not like it at all.”

Piper Davis, Merrill Rollhaus, Lilly Gastis, Jasmine Moore

Kindergartner Piper Davis starts her scavenger hunt at the San Diego Zoo with Seniors Merrill Rollhaus, Lilly Gastis, and Jasmine Moore.

Piper is wearing a koala shirt but quickly shows her fondness for all of the animals, as the team checks out cheetahs first.

“Cheetahs can run as fast as cars on the highways,” Piper shares. The Kindergartner is full of fun facts as the buddies click through web cams of their favorite zoo finds.

Merrill scrolls through the options, while Jasmine and Lilly point out suggestions from the scavenger hunt list.

“How about sharks and sea otters?” suggests Jasmine.

Lilly adds that they also need polar bears. “Let’s watch that.”

They find a big bear that is all about his morning sit rather than being on the move.

“I think polar bears eat walruses,” says Piper. The Seniors quickly point out, “But not at the zoo!”

The baboons are among the most active animals, and the team of four enjoy watching families of adult and baby baboons wander in and out of the camera’s eye.

After surveying all of the land beasts, the buddies move to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where everyone enjoys the colorful “jelly cams” and discovers the sharks and sea otters.

There they all learn something new. None had heard of or ever seen a dolphinfish.

“They look more like whales than fish,” says Piper.

Traditionally, Kindergartners would have one final chance to see their Senior Buddies at Commencement. However, COVID-19 brought an end to that tradition. But thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of Crabtree and Bernstein, the buddies got one last chance to share a good time.

“Smiles filled the Zoom screens with each buddy group during the virtual trips,” says Crabtree. “Thank you, Class of 2020, for your commitment to your Kindergarten Buddies this year!”