Atlanta’s Wild Heritage
Atlanta schoolchildren have had access to a day at the zoo for more than 120 years. Located in historic Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta is the city’s oldest cultural attraction. Founded in 1889, the zoo began with a showman’s misfortune: a bankrupt traveling circus, forced out of business when its owner couldn’t make payroll, was placed at public auction. Businessman G.V. Gress purchased the ragtag menagerie and donated the animals to the city of Atlanta, which at the time was one of only 13 cities in the U.S. boasting a zoo.
Today, Gress’s powerful dreams for the zoo are all that remain of a Victorian attraction where guests gawked at poorly-understood wildlife, peering through bars into small cages. Today’s zoo is an internationally-recognized conservation organization, with national leadership in established centers of excellence: great apes; giant pandas; reptiles; amphibians and education. Since 1889, the world itself has changed in terms of the way humans view wildlife, and Zoo Atlanta is an illustrative example of the decades of metamorphosis defining the 21st-century zoological community.
21st Century Standards for 21st Century Education
At Zoo Atlanta, education is one area that gives visitors pause: how could such an old institution be so new? Georgia has not one, but two renowned living laboratories: Zoo Atlanta and its cultural partner and fellow conservation organization, the Georgia Aquarium. Animals are at the heart of the Zoo’s mission, with more than 1,000 individuals representing more than 200 species. The zoo is one of only four zoos in the U.S. housing giant pandas, and holds the nation’s largest collections of gorillas and orangutans. But superlatives like these can’t begin to come alive for students without seeing these animals firsthand.
There is an automatic association between the zoo and children, but many teachers are surprised to learn of the breadth and depth of programs geared to every grade level. Classroom programs, perfect for smaller groups, and auditorium programs, presented in a dynamic theater environment, offer fun, interactive opportunities and a chance to meet animal ambassadors face-to-face. Field trips will be your students’ favorite educational outing of the year, and zoo tours share the knowledge of expert interpretive guides. Each program is complemented by packets you can use before and after your visit.
For the ultimate educational odyssey, try a NightCrawler overnight! Featuring exclusive tours and animal encounters, these nocturnal adventures incorporate science curriculum so seamlessly that students rarely realize they’re learning. Can’t make it to the zoo? Zoo Atlanta is even prepared to hit the road. ZooMobile outreach programs bring a trained educator and an assortment of new animal friends to your classroom.
What’s in it for you?
The best educators make their students’ success a top priority, but what if there was something at the zoo for you, too? Many of the zoo’s education staff are former teachers themselves, so they understand the need for professional development. Presented regularly for educators at all grade levels, teacher workshops offer opportunities to earn PLUs while accessing resources you can use to your students’ best advantage in the classroom. Teachers looking for more ways to maximize science learning are encouraged to visit our online Educator’s Lounge on zooatlanta.org. This resource provides additional information on special offers; educator events; guides for planning your visit; and helpful tips for justifying your zoo program to your school’s administrators.
Science Comes Alive
Science comes alive at Zoo Atlanta because science is alive at
Zoo Atlanta. From a preschooler’s first-time introduction to hands-on experiences with animals, to a high schooler’s challenging new avenues in ecology and species survival, zoo education programs offer more than knowledge. No student is too young or too advanced to begin a lifelong com
mitment to stewardship of wildlife and the natural world, and the experience of a lifetime may be just down the Interstate.
The zoo’s earliest visitors arrived on foot or by streetcar; luckily for teachers, the 21st century Zoo Atlanta is easier to reach than ever before. The zoo is located just minutes from downtown Atlanta and is conveniently accessible by Interstates 20, 85 and 75.
Top 10 Tips to Justify Your Trip to Zoo Atlanta
- Enhance the curriculum - school and group programs meet academic standards across all disciplines
- Something for everyone - we have programming designed for elementary, middle and high school, as well as new offerings for the college level
- Use our resources! - reduce the “novelty effect” of a visit by using our pre and post activity packets
- Do your homework - include research on how learning in community-based surroundings serves to improve student achievement, this excerpt can further support your case
- Tout the benefits - find out what is important to your principal to determine the program that best meets your needs and explain how it applies to the AYP
- Plan ahead - seek approval for next year’s field trips at the end of the school year to utilize remaining funds
- Invite administrators - a trip to the Zoo could be a fun day for them and you can reinforce the merits of the learning experience first-hand
- Don’t impact the budget - apply for grants, review our educator offers or hold class fundraisers to supplement field trip costs
- Come on the weekend - more buses are available and parents can help drive to reduce transportation costs
- Go beyond a Field Trip! - attend a Tour, Classroom, Auditorium or NightCrawler program to provide a more intimate hands-on experience