Field trips give educators a unique opportunity to capitalize on the natural anticipation students feel about visiting the zoo. From discussions on special highlights of the animal collection for younger students to more in-depth dialogues on conservation and ecology for higher grade levels, curriculum-based guides allow teachers to grab and keep students’ interest weeks or even months before a scheduled visit.
Zoo Atlanta education programs are intended to complement in-school science and biology studies by familiarizing students with the thrill of seeing the proverbial “real thing.” In an era in which many urban children have little or no contact with non-domestic wildlife, a zoo visit is often a child’s first introduction to the wonders of the natural world — an introduction that could prove to form the impression of a lifetime.
Self-guided field trips invite teachers and their classes to explore the zoo independently using grade-specific activities, while instructor-led field trips add the personal dimension of a tour by a trained educator and up-close-and-personal animal encounters. Opportunities are open to groups as small as 10 students or as large as 350.
The award-winning Zoo Atlanta education team understands the necessity to adapt science and biology concepts to the needs, attention spans and capabilities of students of all ages. New in 2013 are three fresh programs designed to bring the power of the field trip to age groups at both ends of the learning spectrum.
New pre-K field trip programs engage a school system’s youngest learners in the animal kingdom’s most basic and relatable ideas. All Star Babies and Super Senses encourage pre-kindergartners to compare and contrast the appearances, parenting styles and sensory adaptations of humans and non-humans, helping to instill an early sense of appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth.
With an eye for the requirements of middle and high school students, the all-new Living Laboratory field trip program supports STEM essentials by introducing teen and preteen learners to the fundamentals of animal behavior research, data collection and data analysis. Living Laboratory programs include pre-visit classroom activities, a presentation on zoo grounds, real-time field study in the zoo, and follow-up curriculum for use back at school.
Educators have always faced challenges, but today’s educators teach in a world where math and science test scores are at an all-time low, and the need to preserve wildlife and wild places is at an all-time high. Impressions formed today will affect the decisions of tomorrow — decisions that may someday make or break the delicate balance of ecosystems inhabited by endangered species worldwide. From a young child’s first encounter with an engaging animal ambassador to a high school student’s first spark of a career goal, Zoo Atlanta field trips have permanent implications for the next generation of biologists, conservationists and citizens of Earth.
Regardless of grade level, Zoo Atlanta education programs seamlessly juggle four critical parts of a comprehensive learning experience. “Before” is exciting. “During” is thrilling. “Continuing” keeps the momentum going. But “After” is forever.