Zoo Atlanta

Spend the night, the day or an hour

04/01/2012  | 
Overnight Field Trips

Consider the sense memories associated with an old-fashioned backyard campout or week at summer camp. There are the sounds: the music of crickets or cicadas, or the furtive scuttling of backyard wildlife. There are the sights: the warm flicker of flashlights, or the cozy glow of the campfire. And there are the experiences: stories, games, songs and outdoor adventures to be remembered for years to come.

What if the sounds were the morning rumble of a lion, the chuff of a tiger, or a cacophony of lemurs? What if the flashlights were night-vision scopes? And what if the experiences were steps toward lifelong habits of environmental stewardship and appreciation for the natural world?

Campouts in the center of the African savanna, the wilds of Southeast Asia, or the jungles of Madagascar might not be practical, but the next best thing is available year-round, just minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Spend the Night

Does that sound too good to be true? Reviews of Zoo Atlanta’s Group NightCrawler overnight program suggest otherwise. “My expectations were greatly exceeded,” wrote one elementary school teacher. “It’s always wonderful, always with new and interesting activities,” said another program veteran. Of course, these are just two of the Georgia teachers who have shared their experiences with Zoo educators: each year, scores of their peers discover that learning doesn’t have to end at dusk — or with the close of the school year.

Open to groups with children ages six and up, Group NightCrawlers offer a sleepover unlike any other in the Southeast, with a chance to spend the night in the zoo, benefit from up-close-and-personal animal encounters, and enjoy exclusive attention from trained educators.

Like all Zoo Atlanta education offerings for schools, Group NightCrawlers are adapted to align with Georgia Performance Standards, with grade-specific science curriculum suitable for use before and after the zoo visit. Programs range from “Animals in Motion” for first and second graders, to “Careers and Conservation” for high school sophomores to seniors.

Spend the Day

A prowl through the nighttime zoo has obvious appeal, especially for kids, but a day trip can be equally beneficial — particularly when school’s not in session. For many parents and camp operators, the summer months are as important as the school year when it comes to keeping kids interested, active and engaged.

Research clearly underscores the value of outdoor activities and personal experiences with nature, and a day at the zoo is a natural fit for any organization that regularly hosts summer day camps. Groups are always welcome at Zoo Atlanta at a discounted rate, but camp leaders and chaperones are encouraged to take the sights and sounds of the zoo an exciting step further. Suggested for groups of 10 or more, Self-Guided Field Trips include grade-appropriate curriculum to enhance understanding of science concepts taught during the academic year. For a more personal experience, choose a Zoo-led Field Trip Program or Guided Tour. These can be tailored to feature everything from animal encounters to a behind-the-scenes peek into the Animal Nutrition Kitchen, where the city’s wildest dieticians prepare meals for more than 1,500 Zoo residents every day.

Spend an Hour

The members of the Zoo Atlanta Education Team are educators themselves, so they understand that an overnight or day trip might not be feasible for every school or day camp. But travel challenges don’t have to impede access to the benefits of one of the Southeast’s finest living laboratories. Serving schools, churches, daycare centers, and countless other metro-Atlanta community organizations, the ZooMobile annually brings wildlife discovery to hundreds of destinations within a 65-mile radius.

Standards-based programs present memorable encounters with a variety of live animals, forging connections not just with the native creatures of backyard Georgia, but with exotic wildlife from points around the globe. Curriculum is age-specific: pre-K children explore animal body parts and senses; elementary students learn more about classifications, ecosystems and the food chain; and high school students take on more advanced topics such as endangered species and protection of wildlife on both the local and global level.

Just Spend the Time

Teachers, parents and youth mentors don’t have full control of the boundless levels of information young minds are exposed to every day, not all of it positive. But they can choose the way young people absorb information, with lasting benefits. Students can spend the night away from home, or they can spend the night in the zoo. They can be entertained by animal behavior, or they can be introduced to real concepts that support their science classes. They can learn about the intricate ecosystem of the island of Madagascar, or they can touch one of the creatures that crawl along the Madagascan jungle floor.

In a perfect world, these aren’t matters of “either” versus “or.” Zoo Atlanta education programs are built to be both.

For more information on education programs for students, teachers and families, or to learn more about Group NightCrawlers, Field Trips or ZooMobile outreach, visit zooatlanta.org or call 404.624.WILD.
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