Ideally, students should take a field trip to a local zoo to study the exhibit of their selected animal. This would take place between Lesson 1 and Lesson 2. Before the field trip, student partnerships would select an animal exhibited at the zoo and do some preliminary research on the animal. During the trip, students would take field notes on their animal and its behavior, note physical features of the exhibit, take pictures, videos and draw sketches. If possible, the class may schedule a tour with a zookeeper to speak about their experience and answer questions about animal care, animal needs, animal behavior, challenges particular to the animal and/or its past or current exhibit, and exhibit maintenance. Even better, some zoos may allow a behind-the-scenes tour of certain exhibits.
This project can be executed to meet the needs of many student populations, as well as many grade levels, though it is intended primarily for 5th graders.
Suggestion for Students with Special Needs, English Language Learners, and Lower Grades
In Lesson 2: Research Preliminary Ideas for Zoo Habitat, the research can be guided as a whole class project. Students can select and vote on a single animal to research and share their findings on the animal’s needs. Instead of partnerships, groups can be formed to allow for a greater exchange of ideas. These groups can than brainstorm sketches for an animal exhibit and follow along with the procedure as described above.
Suggestion for Gifted and Talented Students and Higher Grade Levels
Students can make greater considerations about animal needs within a zoo setting. The exhibit design may include ideas about different animal areas: the public areas and the behind-the-scenes private areas. A great resource for real world zoo exhibit considerations is the Tiger Handbook from the Minnesota Zoo.