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Sites to See:
The Web's Best Zoo Sites

Although going to a real zoo is ideal, that kind of real field trip might not be an option for many students. If that's the case in your classroom, why not supplement your animal study with a virtual zoo visit? Check out the list below to discover the cool tools on the Web for teaching and learning about zoos.

The San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo's Web site is among the most comprehensive on the Internet. Start exploring by clicking Animal and Plants and then click Animal Bytes. There you'll find brief descriptions of dozens of animals, written at about a 4th grade level, and organized by animal category (amphibians i.e.), habitats, and continents. In the same category, the Animal Profile link brings students to more than three-dozen stories of specific animals - such as Pocahontas the Porcupine -- that live at the San Diego Zoo. Similar descriptions of the zoo's plants can be found under the Collections link. Four Web cams and dozens of videos also can be viewed by students. The site also allows visitors to send free e-postcards with images of some of the zoo's more famous residents, while in the Kid's section you can print zoo-themed recipes, play nine different online games, read about a zookeeper's daily work, and view some Q&A's designed for students. Finally the Education link provides teachers with free curriculum, a low-cost Classroom Kit, and ideas for helping animals in your own community.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Similar to other sites on this list, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has animal fact sheets under its Animal Areas' drop down menu. These fact sheets are written for younger students and are briefer, making them ideal for fact-finding in 2nd-4th grades. But don't miss the extras: the site also includes detailed and interactive graphics of the anatomy -- or the facial expressions -- of a variety of species. Under the more common animals -- such as Pachyderms -- features include stories of the animal's daily life. Click Fun for Kids for an array of engaging features, including online coloring pages, jigsaw puzzles (with varying degrees of difficulty), word finds, quizzes, and crossword puzzles.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The National Zoo's Web site is as comprehensive as San Diego's, but finding just what you need can be a challenge. There's just so much to look at! Begin by clicking the Animals, Etc. link, then find the Virtual World Tour, a unique feature of this site. Organized by continents, the Tour asks specific questions and quizzes students on their knowledge of facts about a given species. Each fact sheet has a print-friendly version, ideal for classrooms with limited computer access. Another unexpected element is the right-hand menu on each page, with a Celebrate section (stories of life at the Zoo), Study section (educational materials related to the main topic), and Protect (ideas and information on current conservation efforts). That last theme is perhaps the site's greatest strength -- a large section of the site is devoted to Conservation and Science. Written at a level appropriate for 7th grade and above, these articles are best suited for an older audience, but they can provide great background information for research or classroom debates on such topics as reproductive science among endangered species. The site also has more accessible features, such as Web cams, downloadable wallpaper, and a photo gallery.

Brookfield Zoo
The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, has created a Web site with a number of features not found on similar sites. Click the Lion to go to the Adventure Trail, where four interactive experiences await. The Dolphins In Depth section contains five activities in which students can access Flash-based lessons on breathing, swimming, eating, or socializing among dolphins, and then play a game-based quiz to assess what they know. Under Explore a Child' Nature, be sure to take the Caregiver Challenge Quiz. Although the quiz is meant for parents, it also can give educators a good sense of just how hands-on they really are with nature study and how they should teach about nature given their own strengths and weaknesses. Under Nature Activities, you'll find a number of creative and fun ideas for family gardening, indoor and outdoor nature play, backyard wildlife, and more. The Field Guide contains fact sheets on animals, much like those found at other Web sites, while the Educational Resources link has information on low-cost curricular materials.


These sites, like the sites above, contain online materials, games, and plant and animal information, not just admissions or membership info!

Learn about more great sites for students, parents, and educators by visiting Education World's Site Reviews Archives.

Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

Links Updated 06/13/2011