Science Focus Program
A science-based education program where a unique community of learners is transformed through critical thinking and interaction with the world.

The Evolution of SFP

How It All Came To Be

The idea for the Science Focus Program originated in 1995. Teachers met and worked part-time planning for the Zoo School and part-time teaching at their high schools. The initial, long-term staff included:

  • Social Studies: Jim Barstow (1997- 2008)
  • English: Beth Briney (1998-2017)
  • Math and Physics: De Tonack (1997-2006)
  • Natural Sciences: Sara LeRoy-toren (1998-2013)

Other instrumental staff over the years include:

  • Past Teachers: Deb Sharp (1997-1998), Jane Obbink (1997-1998), Grace Aubert, Court Monroe 
  • Past Principals: Dick Spearman, John Neal, Pat Hunter-Pirtle
  • Past Support Staff: Susan Musick, Amy Windle, Shannon Lynch

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, 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. The Science Focus Program now accepts grades 9-12.

Zoo School has made some changes throughout the years, but the goals remain the same:

  • to give students the best education possible
  • to instill an excitement and a craving for knowledge
  • to teach and learn together

The Evolution of the Zoo School Campus

Zoo School’s open campus was tucked behind the Zoo Cafe and the Rainforest Facility. The original Zoo School campus included two portables and the Rainforest room. The Rainforest room was the English classroom that English teacher Beth often packed away Friday afternoons so that the Lincoln Children’s Zoo could use the space.

In 2004, an additional building was constructed through funds generated in memory of Courtney Cusik and Michael Berg. The building was named “Camelot Commons” because they went to school in a “camel lot,” the former home of the camels. At this time, students developed the original logo, constructed a sign, and hung it on the portable.

From 2004-2019, the campus included two portables that housed the computer lab, the Science classroom and lab, and the English classroom. Eventually, Camelot Commons housed social studies, math, and science classroom and lab.

Picnic tables were available in the park-like setting with our very own Koi Pond. The Koi Pond was created and constructed by former Zoo School student Josh Fuenning with the assistance of the science teacher Sara LeRoy-toren. After Josh passed away, the pond was rebuilt professionally by his family in his memory.
In the fall of 2019, the Science Focus Program moved into the new building next to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo entrance. In addition, the new logo was adopted.

SFP Service Award

This award was established in 2023 to recognize teachers and staff who have been with SFP for five or more years. It is updated for every five years of service.

Name, Subject TaughtAward Category in YearsYear Milestone Reached*
Dr. Beth Briney, English201998-2018
Mark James, Science152007-2022
Susan Musick, Secretary151997-2012
Sara Leroy-Toren, Science151998-2013
Matt Johnson, Math102010-2020
Emily Rose-Seifferlein, Science102013-2023
Jim Barstow, Social Studies101997-2007
Mark Anderson, Social Studies102010-2020
Amy Proffitt, Secretary52017-2022
Johnna Graff, English52018-2023
Dr. De Tonack, Math/Science51997-2002
Aubert Grace, Math52006-2011

*They may have served longer than this and this recognition only comes in 5 year increments.