Wild animals, zoo animals, African animals, jungle animals — all popular classroom themes.
One of the advantages to these themes is that there are plenty of ready-made decoratives.
I say, if making bulletin boards is your art form and your creative outlet, then good for you — go ahead and make them. Yours will be the envy of the school. Otherwise, forget it. Your time is worth more than the 45 cents an hour you’ll save, and you have better things to do.
So I’ll show you a few of my favorites:
- CTP’s “We’re Wild About” is happy and fun. They also have some serious stuff, like Food Chains and Webs and Adaptations.
- TCR’s “Wild About Learning” is nice for younger classrooms, or when you want a break from primary colors.
- Carson-Dellosa’s “Wild Animals of the Serengeti” gives a realistic option. There are stickers and banners to match.
Slogans for a zoo or wild animal bulletin board are super easy; you can be “Wild About…” fourth grade or math or books or whatever it might be.
Once you’ve got your bulletin boards up, check out some helpful links:
- Jan Brett’s rhythm band uses recyclables to make rhythm instruments with images of lions, elephants, giraffes, and more. Use this as an activity for following directions, coloring, and environmental awareness (the “reuse” section of “reduce, reuse, recycle”), and end up with lots of great rhythm instruments to use all year.
- Focus on monkeys in one corner, labeling it, say, “Monkeying Around With Math,” and then let another corner be for “Lion-Hearted Readers,” another for giraffes with “Stretching for Skills,” and so on. That way, you can change out student work or specific topics, without redoing the boards or centers as frequently.
- Pictures, video, and audio clips for lots of animals are available at Jungle Walk. Set these up as a computer center, use them as background sounds for the first day of school to make an intriguing multisensory experience of your classroom, or gain inspiration for research projects.
Get some zoo books onto your library table:
- Dear Zoo is a fun pop-up book that takes kids through an attempt to get a suitable pet from the zoo. The wonderful fantasy of a zoo that will send people animals combines with the reality of how bad zoo animals would generally be as pets to make a terrific concept book. This is a lift the flap book. I find that it makes a great read-aloud.
- Good Night, Gorilla is an almost wordless book that shows a sleepy zookeeper losing his keys to a gorilla, who lets all the zoo animals go free. They pad along behind the zookeeper as he goes home, but his wife takes them all back to bed. The illustrations make this a very funny story. Check out our lesson plans for it.
- If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo is one more book about animals leaving the zoo and coming to human homes. In this book, a little girl assures the zookeepers that she’ll be glad to look after the animals if anything ever goes wrong at the zoo. When the zoo takes her up on her offer — well, you can imagine the rest. In fact, it would be fun to have older students imagine what might happen if zoo animals came to their house, and draw pictures of ostriches in the kitchen and seals in the bathtub. The contrast between the realistic pictures of the animals and their improbable placement in a house is part of the fun of this book.
- Zoo by Gail Gibbons is filled with information, as her books always are. This one goes into things like the conservation efforts of zoos, as well as the lives of the animals in the zoo.
- Tom Paxton’s Going to the Zoo is the picture book version of the popular children’s song that begins, “Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow…” Sing along with the video:
- It’s a Zoo Out There! Animals A to Z–27 Unison Songs for Young Singers (Book & CD) for some more singing.
Enchanted Learning has a very easy idea for making a jungly vine for the classroom. This would be a great thing to have young students do that first day for some getting-to-know-you time.
Another unusual getting-to-know -you activity comes from the San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Wizard program. This is a hefty PDA file with lots of information and activities. One of our favorites uses a card for every student, with a hole punched and strung with yarn so kids can wear them around their necks. Use scented oils (find cinnamon, peppermint, and almond in the grocery store, herbal oils at the health food store, and floral oils at the craft store) to make a spot on each card. Students must use the scents to sort themselves into groups. This helps kids get the idea of how monkeys and other animals use scent information.
Mrs. Flanagan’s kindergarten site shares pictures of a lot of neat zoo-themed centers.
Bringing some toy animals into the classroom is an essential for early childhood and lower elementary zoo themes. A zoo puppet set is a great addition to the classroom. Figures like 12 Little Zoo Animals or Learning Resources Jungle Animal Counters, Set of 60 let you add a zoo feeling to your math practice, sorting, and other basic skills work. The Playmobil Zoo Set makes a wonderful addition to the imaginative play corner, or set it up as a center.
Watch our zoo album video to prepare for a zoo field trip, real or imaginary: