If you're studying biology, reading about animals is great, but it doesn't compare to seeing them in person. A book can tell you about a 14-foot crocodile in words or even photos, but until you stand next to one, it's hard to fully grasp just how huge and powerful and, well, scary it is. Similarly, it's a thrill to get to see less intimidating animals like squirrel monkeys scampering around and playing with each other.
But, entertaining as it is, the zoo isn't just about fun. It's also educational. The signs in front of the exhibits often include interesting facts about an animal's behavior or anatomy. For instance, did you know that flamingos get their pink color from the shrimp they eat? Or that komodo dragons' mouths contain both venom and virulent bacteria? You may even learn about an animal you didn't even know existed! On a recent trip to the zoo, for example, I got to see a South American tree porcupine. I had no idea there was a type of porcupine that had a prehensile tail and lived in the trees.
To get the most out of this learning experience, pair your excursion with lessons from Thinkwell Biology. If you download our Biology iPhone app, you could even watch lectures about topics like species diversity and terrestrial biomes right at the zoo!
Make sure to check your local zoo's website before you head out. You may find special events you'd like to attend or summer discounts you'd like to use. And if you can't make it to the real thing, there's always the Lil' Fingers YouTube Zoo, which features videos of animals classified by region and type. It's made for younger children, but is anyone really ever too old for videos of otters and macaws?