IT was animal magic when youngsters and elderly residents got together at a South Tyneside sheltered housing scheme.
All creatures great and small – from a snake and a pair of rats to a giant snail and a cute hedgehog – made an appearance at Queen Elizabeth Court in Hobart Avenue, South Shields.
The fun-packed visit proved a hit with all ages, as old folk were joined for the day by a class of seven and eight-year-olds from Simonside Primary School.
Queen Elizabeth Court manager Jayne Riley invited along Zoo Academy owner Claire Gibson and her army of eye-catching friends as part of a continuing effort to close the generation gap and help tenants forge closer links with the community.
Year 3 youngsters from the school, in Glasgow Road, Jarrow, have already helped out with a bulb-planting day at the unit earlier in the year and were eager to swap sums and science for snakes and snails.
The audience were given an insight into the animals on show before getting a chance to see them at close hand.
Mrs Riley said: “The tenants wanted to organise something different. Such events are a great occasion for them to socialise with friends and their families and try out new things.
“The children are great and their enthusiasm is so infectious. It can be hard for the tenants to go to the zoo, so we have brought the zoo to them.”
She added: “Since I came here in April I’ve been trying to build bridges in the community.
“We have already had youngsters from the school down at the home before for a bulb-planting event.
“The tenants all love it when the school visits.”
Julie Ogden, Year 3 teacher at the school, said: “The children have all loved it. They were so excited to come here. They will be studying animals at science at school next term.
“We have 17 children in the class and they all had a great time.”
“We will be doing a display back at school with all the pictures we have taken and we will be writing letters to Queen Elizabeth Court to thank them for inviting us, which will also form part of their literacy skills.”
The children and tenants alike were happy to have a hold of Cyril the python snake and the mobile menagerie brought by the Zoo Academy.
The Zoo Academy offers a chance to see exotic life in the palm of your hand. They are regular visitors to schools, community centres and for birthday parties, with their mix of education and entertainment winning the thumbs-up from both school pupils and pensioners at Queen Elizabeth Court.