by Jill Skradski
My seventh graders were given the opportunity to complete an all subject zoo scavenger hunt at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo (HDZ), Nebraska. This field trip is an annual event and the teachers have had the actual hunt document for several years, although they do continue to edit and modify it to meet the curriculum needs. Since at the zoo, there are different species located in specific areas, the questions are categorized into each of the different continents. The students are grouped into many groups of 4-5 students and a teacher. Each student must answer each of the questions, but they may help one another out.
At the HDZ there is a jungle, an aquarium, a desert, a nocturnal swamp, a cat house, gorilla house, pachyderm house, and a polar area as well as many other animal areas. The students are expected to have all day to complete the treasure hunt. There are many opportunities for the students to explore the areas that they enjoy while they are working on the hunt assignment.
I learned that the students are excited about this activity because they are interested in the world around them, that the students actually learn the material, that they are much more willing to work together to be the first to finish (there are prizes for the first groups to finish).
When I was with the my small group, I allowed the students to make deductions on the best way to complete the document as soon as possible. I gave them recommendations, but they were in charge of how they were going to get it done quickly. I felt that allowing the students to do this taught them to make different types of choices on priorities, grouping areas together and competitiveness. I asked the students if they had fun and they told me that they had a blast!!
For home-schooled students, there could easily be one or two groups of 4-5, the teacher can take them to the local zoo and many zoos allow camp-outs ( I know that HDZ does - it wasn't practical for this many students), so a small group could easily spend the night for a weekend activity.
I liked this activity because it integrates many subjects, and it allows the students to learn in a different, exciting environment that is different from the daily routine.
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