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Zoo-Goers Ready to Greet Baby Panda


  • Science
    --Life Sciences
    --Physical Science
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

A baby panda makes his debut at the National Zoo in D.C.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • Pandas are an endangered species.
  • The National Zoo is in New York City.
  • Pandas can be found in the forests of Asia and Africa.
  • Baby pandas weigh about the same as other baby bears when they are born.
  • Pandas eat bamboo. Answers will be discussed as part of the Comprehension Check activity below.

News Words

Introduce the words in the News Word Box before students read the article. Ask students to define the words and put them in alphabetical order. (bamboo, China, endangered, habitat, panda)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Zoo-Goers Ready to Greet Baby Panda.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • Officials at the National Zoo planned a big party to celebrate the naming of the panda, but Tai Shan was not invited. He and his mother stayed in their den.
  • Before putting Tai Shan on display, officials invited small groups of special guests to view the baby panda. They hoped that would help him get used to having crowds wander by his zoo home.
  • The Chinese word for panda is xiongmao, which means giant cat bear.
  • Giant pandas have strong jaw muscles; they need them to be able to chew the staple food of their diet -- bamboo. Bamboo makes up about 99 percent of a wild panda's diet.
  • Pandas do not hibernate during the winter. Because they live on bamboo, they don't build up enough fat to allow them to hibernate.
  • Pandas are about the same size as the American black bear.
  • Giant pandas might look cute, but they can be as dangerous other types of bears.
  • A baby panda is 1/900th the size of its mother.
  • In the wild, baby pandas usually stay with their mothers until they are from 1-1/2 to 3 years old.
  • A baby panda born at the San Diego Zoo on August 2 was named on November 10. Her name is Su Lin. Her name means "a little bit of something very cute" in Chinese. That panda was given the same name as the very first panda ever to be brought to the United States. The first Su Lin arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1936.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • Pandas are an endangered species. (true)
  • The National Zoo is in New York City. (false, the National Zoo is in Washington, D.C.)
  • Pandas can be found in the forests of Africa and Australia. (false, the only place pandas live in the wild is in China)
  • Baby pandas weigh about the same as other baby bears when they are born. (false, at birth pandas are much smaller than other bears' babies)
  • Pandas eat bamboo. (true -- and lots of it!)

You might follow-up that activity with some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • What is the new baby panda's name? (Tai Shan)
  • What does his name mean in Chinese? (peaceful mountain)
  • How many pandas remain in wild in China? (about 1,600 [note: that figure is according to latest estimates])
  • At what age are baby pandas given a name? (when they are 100 days old)
  • Why will Tai Shan be moved to China when he is about 2 years old? (because his parents are owned by China; they are on loan to the United States)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News questions that appear on the students' news page.

Follow-Up Activities

Geography. Display a map of China. Ask students to identify whether each of the following countries is a neighbor of China (borders China) or not. If you teach young students, point to each country on the map as you name it: Afghanistan (no); Bhutan (yes); Burma (yes); India (yes); Iran (no); Japan (no); Kazakhstan (yes); Laos (yes); Mongolia (yes); Nepal (yes); North Korea (yes); Pakistan (yes); South Korea (no); Thailand (no).

Literature. Do you know the story of how the panda got his spots? According to a Chinese folktale, there was once a species of white bear that inhabited the mountains of China. A young girl befriended a white bear cub. One day the girl saw a leopard attack her friend. She threw a stone at the leopard, so the leopard turned on the girl and killed her. The bears grieved her death; in their grief, they tore up the earth around them and then wiped their weeping eyes with their earth-covered paws. From that day on, the white bears had black circles around their eyes. Read aloud a beautiful retelling of that folktale, The Legend of the Panda by Linda Granfield. Use the accompanying lesson plan with the book.

Art. Young children might make a panda mask or wall hanging from a paper plate or a panda puppet from a paper bag.

Just for fun. Challenge students to complete the online panda puzzle or learn what it's like to be a panda keeper at the National Zoo. Both of those resources are found on the Animal Planet Web site.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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