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Field Trips: The Zoo

Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, bear

 

Bear at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, wolf

 

Wolf at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, penguins

 

Penguins at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, zebra

 

Zebra at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, elk

 

Elk at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo

 

Marsupials at the Woodland Park Zoo

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Bird at the Woodland Park Zoo

 

Bird at the Woodland Park Zoo

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"According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) there are over 10,000 zoos worldwide" (from National Geographic). Chances are with so many zoos around there is a zoo within driving distance of your house or if not near you, then near someone else you know (grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister etc.). If neither of these scenarios is an option then consider visiting a zoo on your next family vacation. If it's a good zoo not only will your children enjoy it, but you will as well. And if all else fails visit a virtual zoo online or watch animals live, courtesy of zoo animal cams.

Our Zoo Trips

For us, Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is only a forty-minute drive from our house (give or take depending on traffic) and there is nothing my children enjoy more than visiting the zoo. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that you can plan these field trips during the week while other children are at school. The benefit of weekday visits are that the crowds are minimal, zoo staff is less busy and thus can spend more time answering questions, and there is always the chance you'll meet (and bond) with other homeschooling families. Although we go to the zoo year round, our favorite time of the year to visit is during the fall and spring (the crowds are smaller and it is neither too hot nor too cold).

There are many educational benefits to zoo field trips, here are just a few:

  • Children can witness animals and their behavior first hand. They can observe their movements and how they interact with one another. They get to see what animals look like, what they sound like, what they smell like (for better or worse) and in some cases, they can even touch the animals (at designated petting and teaching centers). Animal habitats, sleeping quarters and the food they eat is also often greatly appreciated by children, who are eager to learn everything they can about these wonderful and fascinating creatures.
  • Children learn about animal conservation and animal care.
  • Children learn about geography and what regions of the world the animals originate from.
  • Children learn about the histories of specific species.
  • Children get to connect with nature.
  • Zoos often offer educational lectures and programs, some of them specifically designed for children.
  • Exercise (physical education)! Zoos are large and there is always plenty of walking to do.
  • It's a great family bonding experience. These visits are fun! Picnics, animals and the outdoors, it doesn't really get better than that.
Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo, giraffe's

Baby giraffe with mother (or aunt -- they are hard to tell apart) at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Here are some tips for planning your zoo trip:

  • Log on to the zoo's website before your trip. Research current exhibits, upcoming exhibits, zoo events (concerts, holiday activities, lectures), hours, the cost of admission, parking, directions etc. If you think your family might make these visits a regular occurrence then consider purchasing a zoo family membership.
  • Zoos often offer discounted admission to those who quality (AAA, military discounts, senior discounts etc.). Some zoos will also have special discount admission days (check your zoo's website for details). A great example of this is Woodland Park Zoo's special homeschooling days, where homeschoolers receive discounted admission.
  • Visit your local library before (or after) your visit and check out books on the animals that you are likely to see at the zoo.
  • If your child is old enough, have them write a summary of their experience after you've returned home. If your child is younger, have them draw a picture of their favorite animal or what they liked best about the trip. You can also have them dictate to you a summary of the trip and you can record their experiences for them.
  • Zoo trips usually last a few hours so be prepared; pack snacks, water, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc..
  • Bring a stroller if your child is young and tires easily. Have kids wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes.
  • Bring your camera! Take lots of pictures of both your kids and the animals.

Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo

Homeschooling Field Trip: Woodland Park Zoo

 

If you can't get to the zoo, bring the zoo to you!  Visit these great Virtual Zoos online!

 

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