Representatives of Turtle Back Zoo – both two-legged and four-legged – visited Linden High School zoology classes on Jan. 31 to say thank you for the students’ work in raising money for animals harmed by the recent Australian Wildfires. 

The process started when students in Amanda Montealegre’s zoology classes learned about species native to Australia, including platypuses, echidnas, kangaroos, wombats, and koalas. This brought up the topic of the wildfires, which are estimated to have killed more than 1 billion animals. Students were hurt by this news and asked how they could help.

“This was when I knew we had to do something big,” Montealegre said.


With just over one week left in the semester, students designed stickers, sold snacks, and asked classmates and family members for donations.

Montealegre, along with fellow science teacher and department chairperson Kelly Gallagher, reached out to Turtle Back Zoo to donate through their matching program. The zoo and the Zoological Society of New Jersey pledged to double any donation and send the total to the wildlife hospital and rescue efforts at Wildlife Warriors Australia. In less than a week, the LHS classes raised over $320, which the zoo will double to nearly $650.

four people posing with an owl and donation envelopes

Representatives of Turtle Back Zoo and the Zoological Society of New Jersey accepting a donation from Linden High School zoology students to help animals hurt by the Australian wildfires. From left are zoo educator Shatiaa Burwell holding a burrowing owl; zoology teacher Amanda Montealegre; science teacher and science department chairperson Kelly Gallagher; and Adam Kerins, executive director of the Zoological Society and a zookeeper at the Turtleback Zoo.

“I am so proud to see how my students successfully campaigned to help those in need,” Montealegre said. “Seeing their enthusiasm and self-driven motivation was magical for me and gave me hope in the future.”

Adam Kerins, executive director of Zoological Society of New Jersey and a zookeeper for Turtleback Zoo, and zoology educator Shatiaa Burwell visited along with some wildlife to say thank you to the students for their hard work and generosity. Students got to meet a burrowing owl, a tenrec, an emerald tree fog, and a skink.

“My hope is that this class has not only given the students a greater understanding and appreciation of the animals we share the planet with, but also that they will be better prepared to organize and execute fundraisers in the future,” Montealegre said. “This planet needs motivated change-makers, and I hope I have helped empower our youth to work together and create a better world.”

large group photo of students

Linden High School teacher Amanda Montealegre and her first-semester zoology students, who raised $323 in a week to help animals hurt by the Australian wildfires.