I’ve been visiting the Henry Doorly Zoo every year for at least the past 25 years. I can honestly say I love this zoo. I may be biased, however it ranks as one of the top zoo’s in both the nation and the world, so my bias is well supported.
Over the years I’ve learned about a lot of animals and I’ve been inspired to learn more about several creatures I didn’t even know existed until I found them at the zoo. Now that I have kids, I want to let them explore the zoo as much as possible, so my annual visit has now turned into multiple visits per year.
With that said, I wanted to share with you some of the many ways we are incorporating our zoo visits into homeschooling, and a few ideas we haven’t used yet, but plan to as the girls get older.
- Learning about habitats. The Henry Doorly Zoo is creative in the way they group the animals. For example, we have a Rain Forest that is segmented into the different rain forests of the world so in one trip through you can go from South America to Africa and see the animals unique to each. We also have a Desert Dome, Kingdom of the Night and a Madagascar Exhibit (which is one of the reasons visiting Madagascar is on my Homeschooling Vacation Bucket List!). While the beautiful elephant I have pictured up there no longer calls Omaha his home, the zoo has finally announced their newest project of an African Grasslands. I can’t wait to see it finished in a few years when the elephants will return (we’ve missed them!)
- Imax Theater. A great way to get the girls interested in watching documentaries is to put them up on the biggest movie screen they’ve ever seen. Add 3D and it’s just icing on the cake! We watch every movie that comes through there (one of the perks of an annual membership is free Imax.) We’ve seen movies about trains, monarch butterflies, dinosaurs and more. I can’t wait to see what the next season is going to bring!
- Teaching about Conservation. After listening to Jeff Corwin speak about conservation last week, the girls are even more excited than ever to learn more about conservation and what can be done to help save the planet. I love that on the zoo’s website and through certain classes we can learn more about it, as well as have access to publications related to their efforts. Through Citizen Science, the kids can learn even more about what they can do (and avoid doing) to help with conservation on their own.
- Speaking of classes at the zoo. That’s right, we can even enroll the girls in some classes at the zoo geared toward their age range. They can sit down with zoo keepers and other education staff to learn more about animals and habitats. Another bonus, the zoo offers workshops specifically for homeschoolers! I can’t wait to get the kids enrolled.
- World Travel: That’s right. Kids have the opportunity to travel with the zoo to some amazing places while assisting the zoo staff with some great projects. This year they’re going to Costa Rica to work with Sea Turtles. We have a few years to start saving up for this trip (the current trip is open to 9th graders or older), but I think the experience and education would be well worth the money.
- Volunteer opportunities. Finally, as the kids get older, they can try their hand at working at the zoo. With both adult and youth volunteer opportunities, the kids can learn about hard work and contributing to the earth and community all at once. Of course I’ll ask them if they want to do this, but for as much as they love the zoo, I’m sure I’ll get a resounding yes response.
Writing this post has given me the zoo bug again. I hope this rainy spring weather passes soon so we can get back to the zoo to hang out for awhile. I miss having lunch with the giraffes.
What is your most memorable zoo visit? Tell me in the comments.