Your visits to various exhibits at the local zoo, aquarium and natural history museum abound with learning opportunities for your eager class in the fall. Whether you want to focus on thriving animal populations, endangered species, ancient cultures and even dinosaurs, the gates to information open widely for you each time you walk into one of these facilities that celebrates the animal kingdom and our ancient human ancestors.
Students often respond well to the idea of dinosaurs, wild animals, Neanderthals and wooly mammoths, making it easier for you to slip in some crucial studies in key disciplines, such as science, ecology and history regarding animals and ancient cultures. The Dinosaur Education Project, through the University of Berkeley, California, proposes that all you need to build a curriculum model for standards-based education is, in fact, a dinosaur. While you want your students to learn about a greater breadth of animals and historic human populations, far beyond dinosaurs, you can certainly work from the “dinosaur theory” as your inspiration point — further applying it to living animal species, humans and historic cultures — and go from there.
Explore the Different Disciplines That Are Rich With Lesson Opportunities
As make good use of your museum multi-pass this summer, carve out a few visits to concentrate on coming up with some lessons that encourage your students to look at each venue in a new light. Far beyond a zoo or aquarium serving as a surrogate home and as a place where we can simply go and peer in at them before moving on to the next exhibit, try to find lessons that help students understand and truly value what each repository represents and offers them.
From the basic understanding of animal kingdoms and species to taxonomic rankings and adaptive behaviors over time, you can map out some exciting science lessons that let students explore science in an extremely relatable and engaging way.
Elementary School. Your young students will get a thrill out of discussing the basic origins of different animal, reptile, insect and marine life species they might have already seen in zoos and aquariums. If they haven’t visited any of these places, your lesson will help prepare them to visit with a sense of purpose and respect for the animals and marine life. You might even bring dinosaurs into the mix, what their lives were like while they were here and exploring reasons why they might have become extinct.
Middle School. Explore biodiversity with students by discussing the different species of animals. Teach a lesson asking students to map out biological classification and taxonomic rankings. Introducing a terrarium, which you may fill with frogs, turtles and plant life, to the classroom, this lesson is an opportunity to discuss how different species rely on one another for survival and sometimes as threats.
High School. Guide students through a lesson that investigates animal, marine life and human behavior over time. Work together to learn more about instinctual behavior, learned behavior and adaptive behaviors in various kingdoms and species. You and your high school students can also begin to explore propagation of the human species and other species.
Teaching students the value of understanding how everything in the world shares a connection, to some degree, seems more critical than ever. As you guide your students through the following ecology lessons, keep in mind that you are fostering the important idea that your young students are, as we all are, stewards of the planet and have a stake in investigating, respecting and protecting the delicate balance of all organisms — plant and animal, each on their own, as well as through interactions with each other — in the natural world.
Elementary School. Encourage young students to become respectful observers of nature in a non-organic environment, understanding that, by standing in front of the inhabitants in an enclosure or aquarium, the animals and marine life are not in their natural surroundings. Share photographs you take during your visits and ask the students to identify the origins of various species.
Middle School. Discuss endangered species in animal and marine life. Use natural history museum findings and printed images to discuss species that have died out and work together to learn possible reasons why they did not survive.
High School. Using images and pertinent data about animals at risk for extinction, discuss basic traits for various species’ survival on their own and what humans can do to help preserve and protect endangered species. Students can research various conservation groups and what they do to protect specific species.
Exploring the history of cultures and development of humans, animals, marine life, insects, plant life, fungi and other organisms is rich with opportunities for your students to see our existence and relationship with the natural world in a new light. In order to avoid repeating failings found throughout history, it is important to help your students learn about the entire canvas of the natural world’s history, from the worst defeats and extinctions to the greatest advancements and hopes for sustained existence in the future.
Elementary School. A trip to the natural museum history is a great introduction to the history of various world human cultures and developments and animals and other organisms for young people. If your local natural museum, zoo or aquarium offers digital recordings of exhibit tours, you might look into to purchasing some of those to share with your students.
Middle School. Introduce the development of cultures and societies among different societies over time for museums. For zoos and aquariums, you and your students might look at the discoveries and extinction of various marine and animal life.
High School. Explore why various civilizations fell or died out, such as ancient Rome, compared to why others continue to thrive. With permission from the museum, take still photographs or record video segments of art work that might give clues about a civilization.
Bring Animals, Marine Life and Natural History Subjects Into Animated Life In Your Classroom
These lessons, as well as others you develop, to teach your students more about these local wonderland destinations will pay off for you and your students. Zoos, aquariums, reptile exhibits and natural history museums each, at the core, give us a chance to understand more about humans and our place in the world, among amazing wild creatures and in a historical context.