The following is a post from contributing writer Tabitha
As homeschoolers, we love our field trips. We have the freedom to go almost anywhere and really get the best out of a field trip, anytime we choose. Zoos are a great choice because not only do you get outdoor time, but there are so many things to see and do. Here are a few zoo field trip tips to help you get the most out of your next excursion.
Whether on a field trip with your homeschool group or just with your own family, planning ahead is essential to have everything go smoothly.
- Comfort – What is the weather going to be like? A sunny day can turn cool, you can get rain, little ones may need naps or that pacifier may get lost. Pack a jacket, pacifier, blanket, etc, just in case. If you might need the stroller, bring it (or rent it). I love mine for the space to put water bottles, jackets, sunscreen, and hats.
- Drinks – A zoo usually involves long walks, and even on cooler days you need to stay hydrated. Pack drinks or plan to buy them at the zoo. Just be sure you have something ready. Remember your babies and toddlers and their needs as well.
- Food – If your field trip happens to include lunch time, make sure you either have something packed or know what the zoo offers. Even picking something up on the way home isn’t the best option when you are walking long distances. I know my kids start to growl back when they get hungry, even if they are having the time of their lives.
- Maps – Most zoos have their maps online so you can look ahead of time. Get the priorities straight regarding what your group wants to see, and then plan a good route. If you are part of a larger field trip, take some time before or after to see things of interest to your family that weren’t included in the group tour. A trip to our local Kansas City zoo just isn’t complete without seeing the elephants, and I’d definitely hear about if it we skipped them.
- Reading/Research- Take time to learn about the animals you are going to see, before you see them! If you know you are going to see a certain kind of animal, get library books or have some resources available for your group or family to really dig in and get to know them before you get to see the real thing.
At the Zoo
You’re finally there! You didn’t forget anything, everyone is excited, and you are ready for a great time no matter what.
- Special Events – Pay attention to the timing of special events. Either that’s when a certain exhibit will be especially crowded (and others will be less so) or something really cool is happening. Depending on your preference and the preferences of your group/family, this could be a great learning opportunity.
- Be Respectful – Everyone is at the zoo to enjoy themselves and learn something, and we can give each other the space to be comfortable. We’ve had some great lessons on common courtesy–a great thing to remember on any field trip!
- Downtime – I have a big family, and it just doesn’t work to rush from animal to animal without taking time to smell the flowers (or zoo smell?). There are playgrounds, benches, and family oriented areas that we can stop at to slow down and move at more of a preschooler’s or toddler’s pace. Enjoy!
- Know When to Leave – Whether it’s closing time, or just time to get back to normal life, know when to call it quits and go home. Especially if you have a membership or your zoo is free, there’s always another day to go and see the things you didn’t get to see this time.
After Your Zoo Trip
You all made it home safely, the animals were fantastic, the talk has not stopped since you got in the car, and the monkey imitations are losing their fascination.
- Followup! Talk about it. What was everyone’s favorite part? What animal would they like to see again? Don’t forget to include what you liked and disliked. What animal does everyone want to know more about? Which future event would you like to go back for? Which animal did you miss? What animal would you like them to add to the zoo?
- More Followup! Books, books, and more books. Or research. Do some learning, find coloring sheets or board books with animals. Make this something they will remember for a long time. There are many age appropriate activities tied to zoos from babies to high schoolers.
- Membership – If you liked what you saw, and your zoo is the kind that has a membership, sign up! Take more time on a particular animal or section of the zoo. A zoo can be a fun family learning experience.
We’ve been to 3 different zoos as a family–small (Amarillo, Texas), medium (Kansas City), and large (The National Zoo). All were great! We have 9 children ranging in age from 16 years to 10 months, and it always amazes me how much each of them get from a zoo field trip.
Enjoy your zoo; whether it’s big or little, near or far, it’s worth the time.
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