The Woodland Park Zoo

I’m on a mission. I want to fill my childrens’ summer with activities they will love and learn from. As a teacher in the public school system, I believe I can make a difference in children’s lives, but I can’t do it all. I rely on parents to give their children the REAL LIFE experiences and FIELD TRIPS that we don’t have the budget to take kids on. I’ll never forget showing one of my students a picture of a zebra. He stared at that picture with wide-eyed-wonder and asked, “WHAT IS THAT?” I was shocked that he had never seen a zebra in a book, at the zoo, or on tv.

Last week we headed to our local zoo. When my kids were little, before they were in school, we purchased a zoo membership each year. We would go to the zoo at least once a month. Now that they are in school and I’m working more, we have to wait for sunny weekends, school breaks, and summer vacation. With summer vacation in full swing, The Woodland Park Zoo was calling. It was a little drizzly, but perfect for making sure the animals wouldn’t be too hot to make an appearance.

I let the kids take control of the camera and their learning. We stopped to take pictures, read signs they were interested in, and have up-close experiences with the animals. We were even able to ask questions, when we ran into the volunteers or zoo guides.

We retold old stories as we walked along. When my son was 3, the jaguar exhibit opened. The jaguar had been moved from his old home. (The kind of exhibit where you’d have to look carefully and one of the kids would spot the jaguar and yell, “Mom, I think I see his bum behind that log!”) They moved the jaguar to a beautiful new home with a glass enclosure. Finally, we could see this stunning animal, up close, in the kind of home he deserved. The first day it opened, we were there. My son was standing right next to the glass, when the jaguar walked up, looked right at him, and sat down in front of him. My son (3 years old), put his hand on the glass and said, “THAT is a big kitty, Momma.” The poor kid is now 10, but I still make him repeat that line every time we go to the zoo.

With the kids in control of the camera, some of the pictures were a little blurry. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I overheard the kids talking about printing the pictures and turning them into a book. It’s a teacher/mom’s dream come true. Literacy is part of their daily lives. They know if they have a question about an animal that didn’t get answered, we probably have a book at home about that specific animal. They know if they are excited about something they’ve learned, there are blank books at their fingertips, just waiting for stories.

It’s summer. We have time on our hands to go on field trips, learn something new, and enhance our literacy lives.

How are you spending your summer?

***A side note.***

By the way (just a little warning), when you let a 10 year old boy hold the camera, you might find some interesting pictures!

Happy Summer!

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