On one of the last, good days of summer, I got to spend the afternoon with my family at the Indianapolis Zoo. We’ve had a membership there for years but this visit was a little different.
Truthfully, I had no idea all the services and “extras” that were available through our city’s zoo. We normally just check out all the animals, watch the dolphin show (every.single.time.), and play on a playground or two. And that’s enough to wear my kids out and ensure good naps (the ultimate goal on most days as any mom knows).
But after our recent visit, I feel like we’ve been missing so much stuff. Every time we enter the zoo, we pass the Polly H. Hix Institute for Education and Research and I had no idea. They hold classes, help coordinate field trips, host overnight adventures, provide distant learning experiences for teachers and homeschoolers, and put on summer camps. On this trip, we got to go inside and I was overwhelmed with the options they have for me as a parent and teacher. There are even zoo kits you can request ahead of time to prepare for a trip or use as a refresher about a past trip. If I was homeschooling, I’d be using the zoo’s resources all the time. They have so much stuff already done for you. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from being a teacher, it’s work smarter not harder. If someone else has already created it, don’t try to reinvent the wheel for goodness sake. (The distant learning experience is not just for local residents, so if you homeschool or have a classroom, make sure you check out all the options, I’m sure you’ll find something to fit into your curriculum, also.)
I can’t wait until my students start our book unit on Touching Spirit Bear because I can set up a distant learning experience for my students with zoo employees. We can learn about bears and their environments which will help introduce us to vital information we need to know to fully understand the novel. I’m only bummed I didn’t learn about this years ago because I’ve been teaching this book for seven years. Sorry, former students.
One surreal moment during our zoo adventure was going behind the scenes with our girls and meeting an elephant. We got to meet with a trainer, watch an elephant show off some “behaviors” (don’t call them “tricks”), and then we got up close and personal with an elephant. My favorite part was watching my daughters’ reactions to touching an elephant. That is something I’ll never forget.
Make sure you get out to your local zoo soon, I think you’ll be surprised at all they have to offer. And if you’re local, Zoo Boo starts in October! That’s one of my favorite zoo events all year. Make sure your kids wear costumes and bring a bag to trick-or-treat!
DISCLOSURE: I was gifted admission to the zoo for me and my family, but all opinions and views are my own.