FreshPlans Goes to the Zoo


A visit to the zoo may be the ultimate field trip. We went to the Kansas City Zoo, which is designed to make visitors feel that they’ve been all around the world in one day. Interpretive exhibits take you from an Australian sheep farm to an African house, with appropriate music, artifacts, and of course animals.

Our visit lasted an entire day, and we probably still didn’t see everything. It was great!

African house

We got to get up close and personal with a lot of animals, from elephants…

Kansas City Zoo elephant

…to lions!


The lions were behind a pane of glass, so we could really get close up. Most of the animals were very close, though, so we got to see and hear and smell them much as they would be in the wild.

seal show

When we study animals, we follow the National Science Standards and include morphology, life cycles, habitats, and relationships with humans. You can see animals and how they move very well at a zoo, and the interpretive exhibits usually tell you plenty about the animals’ life cycles. A good zoo like this one puts animals in the closest thing to their natural habitat that they can achieve. Zoos are also a place where you can give plenty of thought to the relationship of the animals with humans. We like to see the rapport the animals have with their trainers, and at the KC Zoo you can also see trained animals like the seals in the seal show, or the elephants which dance and paint. We figure bright animals like those probably like to have a job to do, and maybe they also like the attention from the visiting humans.

zoo nap

Most of the animals at the zoo take life pretty easy, though. They’re protected and cared for, and that might be a good trade off for giving up life in the wild.

The KC Zoo website has pictures, information about animals, and invitations to their educational programs. Here are some other zoos that make great firtual field trips:

  • The San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s great zoos, and their site has things like interactive games and a live Elephant Cam.
  • The Miami Metro Zoo has a snazzy interactive map which we like for map work as well as learning more about animals.
  • The Brookfield Zoo has a very cool interactive tour set in Africa, with map work and lots of opportunities to learn about local flora and fauna.
  • The Atlanta Zoo has online kids’ activities, a Panda Cam, an interactive map, and ideas for craft projects.
  • The Bronx Zoo has some unusual online activities, including ecology projects and some games that simulate the kind of research zoologists and ecologists conduct in the wild. Their multimedia page has podcasts, slideshows, and videos.

You probably noticed that we like zoos for map work. Why not design your own zoo after your zoo visit or virtual field trip? SketchUp is a perfect tool for zoo planning, or use paper and pen or recyclables like cardboard boxes. It takes a lot of research to determine the needs of all the different animals, so this project can get as complex as you want it to be.The Smithsonian National Zoo has a Design a Panda Habitat activity to help students think about zoo planning, and ZooLex has a gallery of zoo plans to inspire ideas about how a zoo plan might be translated to a two dimensional image. Switcheroo Zoo is an online game to set up in your computer center for fast finishers.

We also have plenty of posts with ideas that go along with a virtual field trip to the zoo:

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