Animal Encounters: Meet the Akron Zoo
This post is part of a series. Click here to read our Meet the Provider series.
Meet the Host: Akron Zoo
GAR Foundation recently announced the launch of a new $1.2 million investment called Essential Experiences to provide every Akron Public Schools student in PreK through 5th grade with a meaningful learning experience outside of the classroom. Students will visit six local cultural and historical organizations to participate in educational programming directly connected to classroom learning. Host organizations include ArtSparks, Akron Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Akron Zoo, Hale Farm & Village, and Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
Learning in the real-world
Through Essential Experiences, nearly 1,600 first grade students will participate in a two-part experience with the Akron Zoo called “Animal Encounters.” This lesson focuses on helping students develop the skills for systematic discovery to understand the science of the natural world around them in greater depth by using scientific inquiry. These types of up-close, hands-on experiences are found to increase both understanding of and interest in science concepts as well as increase social-emotional skills in students.
The Essential Experiences initiative addresses the need for high-quality experiential learning and draws from research supporting the value of co-curricular experiences.
Three important elements make these experiences more robust than a traditional field trip:
- Curriculum–based: the experiences are designed by professional educators to connect directly to the content being taught and learned in students’ own classrooms.
- Equity and inclusion: Prior to this initiative, field trips were not guaranteed for every child and every classroom across the district. Essential Experiences ensures that every child in every participating grade gets to have the same valuable experience.
- Consistency: Essential Experiences provides students with a consistent, hands-on, grade-appropriate experience to support their learning each year
Zoo Comes to the Classroom
To prepare for the learning trip, teachers begin the discussion, observation, and exploration of living and nonliving things and the impact each organism has on the surrounding environment. During this time, the Akron ZooMobile will visit every first-grade classroom to enable students to interact with living and nonliving things in a controlled environment and expand their understanding of their impact on the ecosystem.
Following the ZooMobile visit, the first-graders will travel to the Akron Zoo to attend a program led by a Zoologist to discover how they develop healthy and thriving ecosystems that are tailored to the needs of each organism. Students will have an opportunity to experience animals up-close and will learn about animal habitats, survival tactics, seasonal adaptation, and what it’s like to be a Zoo Keeper. Following the program, teachers will lead students on a self-guided tour to explore animals from around the world. Teachers will engage students in a discussion that reinforces information from the program.
Back in the classroom, the learning continues. The College and Career Academies Animal Studies pathway students from Ellet High School will visit each class to provide students with an introductory Animal Studies career presentation and demonstrations which include animals and a hands-on experiment.