EducationLearning Experiences Outside the Classroom

Zoo-topia sparks learning joy

“We’re all going to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow…”

It’s a song that’s been sung for decades on the eve of that most universally loved of all school trips. And while the song may not have changed, the zoo definitely has…

With the global climate in crisis, our natural environment has never seemed so precious to preserve. With wildlife under threat, conservation is a pressing topic that is being embraced and promoted among young people more than ever before. Add to that, the lack of ability to travel freely to witness much of the world’s wildlife in a natural habitat, and you have all the more reason to put a trip to the zoo high on your list of school trip priorities.

Image courtesy of Hamilton Zoo

Providing a sensory overload, with sights, sounds, and often, smells, the zoo is likely to have your pack of children keen to run wild and explore it all – lack of enthusiasm is rarely an issue with this excursion. Not only is the joy of seeing majestic creatures previously only seen in books and movies is a memory-maker for life, but the educational benefits on offer are endless, with opportunities to develop speech and language skills, widen world views, gain environmental understanding, develop compassion, experience hands-on learning, increase self-awareness, explore boundaries and enjoy outdoor exercise, are among the learning opportunities.

Image courtesy of Hamilton Zoo

The zoo manages to hit that elusive formula of being as fun as it is educational. Of all the school trips, this is the one that they’ll want! 

Auckland Zoo passionate about nurturing future conservationists

As a conservation science organisation on a mission to bring people together to build a future for wildlife, Auckland Zoo is passionate about nurturing Aotearoa’s next generation of conservation scientists.

The diverse range of themed programmes offered by the Zoo’s Conservation Learning team is testament to this passion and commitment. Programmes include everything from pre-school Tamariki Time (story-time through song, dance, and play) to primary and secondary programmes especially adapted to year level and New Zealand curriculum needs, and specialised sessions for tertiary groups.

Image courtesy of Auckland Zoo

“Our Zoo is a stunning16+ha outdoor ‘classroom’. It’s an exciting place for curious young minds and gives students incredible opportunities to be in nature and connect with, learn about and be inspired by wildlife species from throughout Aotearoa and around the world,” says Conservation Learning duty operations manager, Lizzy Lockhart.

“For some tamariki, it can offer a chance to connect with nature in a way that they have never done before and open up a whole new exciting world of learning for them.” 

Conservation Learning sessions happen in the Zoo’s dynamic classroom spaces as well as out in the Zoo and are linked to the New Zealand Science curriculum with a particular focus on the Living World and Nature of Science strands.

“Running through all our sessions are key Zoo values; that as we are all connected to nature, we all have a responsibility and role to play as kaitiaki of our precious wildlife and wild places, and that we are conservation optimists who can stand together for good!

Image courtesy of Auckland Zoo

“Whether your students are focused on endemic taonga here in Aotearoa, or on exotic species deep in South East Asia or Africa, students can learn about these threatened wildlife and the range of conservation issues they face. They can interact with Zoo staff who are passionate about making a difference and inspiring others to do the same, and leave with small manageable actions that they can do to contribute to conserving species in the wild.”

Zoo sessions also give students a wealth of other learning opportunities – from encouraging oral language and writing skills to using design principles from the Technology curriculum when investigating our world-class animal habitats.




Heather Barker Vermeer

Heather has worked as a journalist, writer and editor in England and Aotearoa New Zealand for over 20 years. She fell in love with words when she received a 'Speak & Spell' tech toy for Christmas in 1984.
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