Skulls, leaves and lessons at Potter Park Zoo this week!

It's midweek, and we’re midway through another BIG Zoo Lesson week here at the zoo.  Two classes of second graders from a local school district are down the hall “being scientists.”  They are studying items from the zoo’s collection of skulls, getting a first-hand look at the differences among carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.  They carefully observe and sketch the skulls, noting the teeth, the eye placement, and the size of the snout.  Later they will examine some of the zoo’s animal pelts, considering effective camouflage.

What is this BIG Zoo Lesson program?  It is an awesome opportunity for students and teachers to experience hands-on, minds-on learning using the zoo as their classroom all day, every day for a week at a time.  Eligible classrooms come from area schools.  Classes ranging from second to eighth grades are candidates.

Teachers design the week and lead their students.  Parents assist as teachers, mentors, and learners themselves.  Students meet with zoo staff, docents, zookeepers, and a veterinarian along the way.  And spend lots of time becoming scientists, studying live animals – observing, sketching, and writing in their journals – and using tools such as the skulls and pelts.  Sounds good, eh?  Don’t you wish you had such an opportunity when you were young?

On Monday as we welcomed the classes when they arrived at the zoo, we asked who felt like scientists as they faced the week ahead at the zoo.  A few students slowly and shyly raised their hands.  Two days later more hands shot up when we repeated the question. We're hoping for even more by the end of the week!