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Educator Resources: Creating Zoos and Habitats
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Home > Educator Resources > Creating Zoos and Habitats

Creating Zoos and Habitats

Creating zoos and habitats will help students understand the interconnections of all life on Earth. Students will explore the world's biodiversity through research on various ecosystems and the plants and animals that live there. Emphasis will be placed on writing factual reports, giving oral presentations and designing creatively.

Computer technology can be used in research, writing and design.

Standards for the English Language Arts

Sponsored by NCTE and IRA

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

U.S. National Geography Standards

Element Three: Physical Systems

Standard Eight: The Characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.



Other materials:
Instructional sequence:
  • Students will brainstorm the purpose of zoos. List reasons zoos might be positive/negative.
  • Class will be assigned the project of designing a zoo that is as close as possible to the animals' natural habitats.
  • Determine how zoo will be organized (by type of animal e.g., reptiles, primates, large cats, etc. or by ecosystem e.g., tropical forest, desert, grassland, etc.).
  • Divide students into teams and allocate a zoo section determined in previous step (animal type or ecosystem). Each team must decide what animals it wishes to include in its section of the zoo. Students will choose an animal to research.
  • Develop questions that will need investigating by each student in order to create your zoo. Student involvement is important here. Some suggestions: Where does this animal live in the wild? What is the climate in the area? What special adaptation/s does the animal have to help it survive? What does it eat? How does it get its food? Does it live/hunt in groups or alone? How large is the animal's territory? How does it raise its young? What type of plants is found in this animal's habitat and is it dependent upon any of them?
  • Students will record their findings in a journal. From their notes, students will prepare a written report about their animal. See the Informative Writing strategy for more ideas on the written animal reports.
  • Students will design and construct a model zoo exhibit as similar to the animal's natural habitat as possible. Remember: the exhibit must be suitable for the animal's survival and comfort in captivity.
  • Upon completion, students will display their models and report their findings on the animal's natural habitat, basic needs and how their exhibit is designed to meet these needs.

  • Students will investigate human impact on wild places and wildlife and prepare a written report. Involve students in a classroom discussion on how human actions modify natural habitats. Do their findings have any affect on decisions of animals chosen to exhibit at the zoo? Will more threatened or endangered animals/plants be chosen for display?
  • Students will visit a local zoo. Compare/contrast real exhibits with classroom model exhibits.
  • The zoo's mission will be to educate visitors about the interconnections of all living things and to create an awareness of how everyday decisions and choices impact wild spaces and wildlife. Students will design and develop an attractive educational display near their zoo exhibit. How will the information be relayed? (through artwork, lift and drops, audio/visual media, etc). The Using Visual Arts strategy may give teachers further ideas to extend this lesson.
  • Students will create a scale model of their exhibit. All students should work using the same scale so exhibits can be combined to create an entire zoo during final phase of project. Class should determine a list of questions for consideration when designing and building an artificial habitat for their animal. Suggestions: How much land is available to build the zoo? How much space does each animal require? Will some animals have to be eliminated from the plan due to space requirements? How will the animal be contained? (moat, rockwork, concrete walls, electric fence, etc.) Does the animal swim or climb trees and fences? How will the trees/plants be protected from the animals? How will the keepers get into the exhibit to clean and feed the animals? How much space is needed for holding/sleeping quarters? Is the animal nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular? Will there need to be special considerations made for temperature compensation or light intensity? Discuss some of the challenges in building exhibits and maintaining animals in captivity.
  • Students will create a zoo map that can be used for various mapping activities. Please see the Map Interpretation strategy.
  • Students will design a zoo brochure to be used in an advertising campaign. Please see the Advertising Campaigns strategy.
  • Students will create animal puppets that represent the animals they research. Students can work together in groups to prepare a skit for their puppets. Please see the Using Visual Arts strategy or the Song, Dance and Drama strategy.
  • Students will work in cooperative learning groups to prepare an educational tour of their zoo. The tour message should focus on conservation.
  • Students will create animals and props to be used in model exhibit. (Origami, spool and/or clay animals are a few suggestions.)
  • Create a zoo bulletin board with news articles, pictures, classroom sketches, etc. Please see the Descriptive Writing strategy.

  • Self assessment and/or peer critique
  • Presentation

Literacy advancement:
  • Required reading for research
  • Organization of written and spoken thought
  • Exposure to new vocabulary
  • Interpreting informaiton

Author: Brown, Carolyn

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