Learn About the Animal Kingdom at the Zoo

The zoo is a great place to see animals and learn about the environments in which they live. Going on a field trip to your local zoo helps encourage your child to understand the diversity of the world's creatures and habitats, a lesson that you can build upon long after your trip.

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Before You Go

Before you leave for your local zoo, see if it has information available on its website. You may be able to find a map of the zoo that will help you plan your trip. Some zoos are very large and you may not be able to visit every exhibit, especially with very young children. Time spent plotting your trip can minimize feeling rushed or missing out on animals you intended to see.

In addition to considering the overall layout of the zoo, look for educational programs or scheduled events. Most zoos make feeding times available and this is a great time to witness the animals in action. Also, many zoos offer shows, guided tours and other special programs led by zoo staff. When planning sites or events, be sure to factor in the distance from one spot to another.

zoo elephant child friendly field trip

Teaching Moments at the Site

While visiting your local zoo, let your child spend time studying various animals. Rather than rushing to see a plethora of different animals, take your time with exhibits of particular interest to your family. For example, if your child is fascinated by elephants, allow him or her to dwell at that exhibit, watching how the animals eat, move and interact. This concentrated observation allows for a deeper understanding of the animals.

In addition to studying animals, your child can also learn about habitats. Animals in zoos are typically grouped by similar environments. For example, animals of the African savannah may have exhibits adjacent to one another, with some animals housed together. Likewise, reptiles are often kept together in a carefully controlled climate. Your child can look for elements of the animals' native habitats, as well as parts of their zoo homes that are intended to simulate their natural home.

zoo field trip moose park

After Your Visit

Learning about animals and their habitats doesn't end when you leave the zoo. After your visit, your child can look for native animals in your area. If you live in the city or suburbs, these may be squirrels or chipmunks. In more rural areas, your child may be able to observe deer, foxes, moose or elk. A trip to the zoo may also spark an interest in birds, which can be seen in many varieties throughout the country.

Building upon what was learned at the zoo, ask your child to interpret how the animals behave. How are they different in the wild compared to at the zoo? Also, have your child look for ways in which the animals adapt to their environment.

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