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It's a Zoo Out There!


June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month! What better time to take a tour of some of the best zoo Web sites around? Included: Quick activities (see italic type).

Cover Image Imagine a world without animals

Better yet, invite your students to imagine a world without animals! What would such a world be like?


Now that's a good discussion starter or writing prompt -- a thought-provoking introduction to a study of animals around the world!


After your students have had a chance to share their visions of an "animal-less" world, invite them to imagine a world without zoos Perhaps that isn't so hard to imagine, but -- think about it -- if it wasn't for zoos most people around the world would never have seen a live zebra, or kangaroo, or gorilla.




June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month, the perfect time to set off on a field trip to your local zoo. There, students will learn that zoo workers' efforts extend far beyond the display and care of animals for curious humans. Today, most zoos are active participants in the protection and preservation of animal species around the world.

If a field trip to a zoo isn't in your plans, why not do the next best thing? Let your students take a virtual field trip. Online, your students can visit zoos all around the United States and the world. They'll learn new facts about their favorite animals -- and facts about new animals they've never heard of.

Better yet, Education World has already traveled the Internet superhighway for you. We've found a bunch of the most interesting zoo Web sites around. Come along as we explore them


And, once we're done exploring, be sure to check out this week's Education World LESSON PLANNING story, Animals of the World. Your students will search a handful of zoo Web sites to find where some common and unusual species live. (One activity for Internet beginners and a different one for more experienced surfers!)

So let's get going! Let's start our online tour in California.



The San Diego Zoo is a great place to start. This site, which includes the Web pages of the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Zoological Society of San Diego, is full of great stuff! And the site is always changing If you run to the site right now, you'll still be able to see this exciting exhibit:

  • At Welcome to the Heart of Africa, students can go on a safari through uncharted country with field researcher D.L. Armstrong. Follow Armstrong's journey and read his journal entries by clicking on each date on a clickable map. View video and send email postcards to friends, telling them of the well-camouflaged okapi and courting flamingos you've seen!

In addition, students can learn about the zoo's conservation efforts on behalf of the Arabian oryx, the California condor, cheetahs, and a handful of other endangered species. And they can have some fun playing the site's "zoogames" -- match hoof prints to the correct animals, figure out a baby animal puzzle, and match the predator to its prey. For a quick writing exercise, each student can select a favorite postcard picture from a humongous collection and type email greetings to a friend or family member.



From San Diego, Education World's virtual traveler heads to the center of the country -- to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Check out the site's "Tiger Cam" and its archive of "live" tiger photos! Then check out the three animal indexes -- one for birds; one for mammals; and one for reptiles and amphibians. Each alpha index includes many animal names in blue hypertext. Click on the hypertext to see photos and to learn more about the animals.



Next, we're off to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Check out ten of the zoo's exhibits on the Zoo Views page -- including the Great Ape House, Beaver Valley, the Panda House, Cheetah Conservation Station, and the Reptile Discovery Center. The site also has live Web Cams that are recording the comings and goings of orangutans, naked mole-rats, and a rhino calf -- plus "The Fastest Elephant Cam in the East," updating the zoo's elephant action every 20 seconds!

The National Zoo Web site includes several educational games. You'll find crossword and word search puzzles related to two of the site's news stories. Another game familiarizes students with the methods used to teach language to orangutans. (How will your students do? As well as the orangutans?)

In addition, at the National Zoo Cinema visitors can view online video of cheetahs, giraffes, Komodo dragons, orangutans, gorillas, and more.

And the site's photo library includes more than 150 animal images! Students can print out two copies of 14 of those images (28 images in all) and attach each image to an index card. Mark two more cards with the words "Wild Card." Flip the 30 cards over and arrange them in five rows of six cards. Your students are all set to play Animal Concentration! Let them take turns flipping over two cards at a time, trying each time to locate a matching pair.


The Birmingham Zoo Web site is another favorite of mine!

Along with its Animal Movies and its African Safari features, I like the site for its searchability. Just type the name of an animal into the search engine, and the search engine will dig up all references on the site to that animal. Visit the "Visit the Animals" section for a list of the zoo's animals, each linked to a page with easy-to-read information about the animal's appearance, range, habitat, diet, and so on. And the site's "Animal Omnibus" offers links to information about all kinds of animals!


Students can use the Birmingham Zoo's "Visit the Animals" page for a simple activity. Invite students to choose ten or twenty animals on the list. (Vary the number depending on their grade level and abilities.) Then each student sets up a page with three columns on it -- one column labeled Birds, one labeled Mammals, and one labeled Reptiles and Amphibians. Students organize their list of animals by placing each animal name in the correct column. If students aren't sure about any animal's classification, they can click on the animal's name to learn more about it.


Let's head back to California for a couple more zoo visits. First stop: The Oakland Zoo. The zoo's "Discover the Zoo" page will transport students to some cool stuff. Included are virtual tours of an African Savannah, an Asian rain forest, and the land "down under." And the "From A to Z" section offers a nice clickable list; click on an animal name to learn more about it.

The site offers another nice student resource: From the site's main page, click on "Teachers and Kids" to access a student's guide for writing animal reports!


Sure, you could assign an animal report. Don't forget to provide students with the URL for the site's Hints for Your Student Report. Or this site offers another fun option: Students can read the fun facts about animals on the site's Animal Tales page. Then the site's Treasure Hunt page offers a little quiz to test students' fun-fact comprehension.

And on the way back to San Diego, let's make one final stop -- at The Los Angeles Zoo. On the zoo's Web pages, students can read about the zoo's latest animal baby arrivals. The tales zookeeper Jay Kilgore has to tell will amaze kids! ("The largest meal she ever ate was 35 pounds," says Kilgore.) Students can also read about the zoo's California condor conservation efforts.

Invite students to create a timeline showing events in the California condor recovery program. See the dated timeline information on the site.


There are bunches of other great zoo Web sites out there. Here are a few more worth checking out:

  • The Denver Zoo The site includes a map of the zoo that is absolutely gorgeous! You could post geography skills questions about the map by the computer and let kids answer the questions while looking at the online map. (Or you can create a learning center by printing out the map and hanging it on the wall next to the questions.)
  • Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden The site's Field Guide to Animals and Plants is under construction. As of today, the Field Guide's Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles pages offer excellent resources for your students. The Fish, Invertebrates, and Amphibians pages are in the works.
  • Pittsburgh Zoo Links to many pages of information about animals housed at the zoo.
  • Zoo Atlanta Check out this site's educational activities.


Be sure to check out this week's Education World LESSON PLANNING story, Animals of the World. There you'll find two teaching masters -- one for Internet beginners and one for more experienced surfers -- that will engage students in an Internet scavenger hunt! The hunt draws on a handful of the excellent zoo Web sites previewed in this story.

Article by Gary Hopkins

Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World