Zoos, in case one didn’t know, began as quite serious places for scientific study of unusual species. That was easier to do close at hand rather than always sending crews off to Africa or Australia. Then, of course, it turned out that the general public was also fascinated and amused by seeing zebras, chimpanzees and big, colorful birds. Thus was born the zoo as it’s known today: an amusement park with real animals.
Still, zoos can still be a source of education. Here are five fun ways of teaching the kids without their knowing they are being taught in the first place. They are divided by school class.
- LANGUAGES: Usually, a zoo will have plaques outside the various pens or enclosures listing the name of the animal in various languages. A zebra, for instance, is la cebra in Spanish. Pronounce the variations. Give points for who has the most realistic sounding accent.
- ART: Give each of the kids a small notebook with blank pages, along with some coloured pencils. Have them draw their favorite animal. Once everyone is back home, they can embellish or re-do their drawing making their own posters for the wall or refrigerator.
- GEOGRAPHY: Those same plaques will also list the animal’s native land. See who knows the most about that place. It will be surprising how much knowledge one has picked up casually from TV and books.
- FILM STUDIES: This could be termed, Where Have I Seen This Before? Has an animal or bird been seen in, say, a Disney movie? Which ones are the most popular for cartoons or live action pictures? Why?
- ENGLISH: Much the same as Film Studies, what book or books have featured these animals? If no one can think of one, imagine what kind of a story would fit the, for instance, Alpine Ibex.
A zoo is not just about walking around staring at things. It is all about sharing thoughts and experiences. Oh, and please don’t feed the bears.
Be sure to pick up a zoo map when you arrive, and don’t be afraid to talk to the zoo keepers! They are full of knowledge and fun facts. Encourage your children to ask a question and see what they learn!