Random header image... Refresh for more!

Six Ways the Zoo Can Stimulate Your Kids’ Interest in Math

Guest blogger: Education Intern, Kristina Meek

numbersLike any subject, math has its fans and its detractors. If your child is one of the latter, you might struggle to find ways to make math interesting. Since kids get excited about animals in general, and the Zoo, in particular, a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo could help. Here are a few tips to get you started. With a little creative thinking, you can probably come up with a few ideas of your own!

  1. Start with counting. Visit an exhibit and ask your child, how many lemurs do you see? How many fennec foxes? How many baby animals and how many adults? Can you add the two numbers together?

    How many lemurs can you count?

    How many lemurs can you count?

  2. Make up sneaky word problems. Throughout the Zoo, and on our website, you’ll find fun facts about animals. When you encounter numbers, use them as a spark for a simple word problem. For example: An Asian elephant can consume around 100 pounds of food per day. How much food do the Cincinnati Zoo’s four elephants, together, consume in a day? A month? A year?
  3. Spot shapes. Animal bodies display a variety of shapes, which are the foundation for geometry. Some cats’ ears are triangles while others are circles. One animal may have a rectangular body, another an oval one. Ask your child to point out what shapes he or she notices.
  4. Check out the leaf-cutting ants. At the Zoo’s interactive leaf-cutting ant exhibit, inside World of the Insect, you can watch real ants haul leaves back to their nest — right over your head! Your child can stand at the colorful console to time the ants’ progress, count them, and make predictions about their behavior. They won’t even notice they’re using math.

    Leaf-cutting ant (Photo: David Jenike)

    Leaf-cutting ant (Photo: David Jenike)

  5. Manage money. When you visit the Zoo, you might stop for lunch at one of our restaurants or choose a souvenir from the Zoo Shop. If you’re using cash, and your child is the appropriate age, ask him or her to pay at the register. Regardless of your payment method, kids can help do calculations like how much you’ll save with an item that’s on sale or by using a coupon.
  6. Make connections. Visiting the Zoo might inspire your child to pursue a career in a field like botany, biology, or environmental science. Let him or her know that studying math can open possibilities along that path. Math is the “language” used in science, so it’s critical to study subjects like algebra, calculus, and statistics.

The benefits of bringing your children to the Zoo sure are adding up. Enjoy!

 

March 16, 2016   3 Comments

Six Ways the Zoo Can Stimulate Your Kids’ Interest in Reading

Guest blogger, Zoo Education Intern, Kristina Meek:

Let’s face it; some kids just don’t love to read. You know how important reading can be to school success and for life in general. Yet you may find yourself pleading just to get your child to read the simplest assignment, never mind perusing books for pleasure.booksIf your child loves the Zoo, it could provide a sneaky way to crack his or her resistance. Read on for six ideas to try.

  1. Prepare for your Zoo visit by browsing the Animals section of our website. Each animal has a short description and list of pertinent facts. Together, you and your child can browse and decide which exhibits to prioritize when you get to the Zoo. Even pre-K children can take part by identifying the first letter in each animal’s name.
  2. Encourage your child to read the signs at Zoo exhibits out loud. When a child is excited about an animal, nudge him or her to learn a few facts about it by reading the sign. The Zoo’s signs tend to be easy to read for upper elementary students, but also use words that are likely new to the child. Reading a short bit of text won’t feel like a chore and can enhance the child’s enjoyment of observing the animal. Some of the signs even rhyme!

    Balance like a Lemur sign

    Jungle Trails is a great exhibit to explore as a family. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  3. Talk about word origin. Starting around seventh grade, kids learn to identify roots of words, which can help improve their overall vocabulary. For example, the word nocturnal (active at night) comes from the Latin root “noct” or “nox,” which also appears in the word equinox (the time when day and night are equal in length). Or, the scientific name for an Indian Rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis. “Unicornis” comes from “one” and “horn,” because this species sports only one horn instead of the two that other rhinos have.
  4. Make an endangered species sign. In certain exhibits, such as Manatee Springs and Night Hunters, the Zoo offers interactive sign-making stations. Visitors can choose a species and assemble a message from suggested text and then send their creation to a friend. Kids express their creativity and support a cause while reading and learning.

    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)

    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  5. Ask your child to read to an animal. Studies have found that reading to dogs builds children’s confidence. Animals never judge, laugh, or correct pronunciation. If you have a dog, you can try this technique at home. But why not bring a book or e-reader to the Zoo and have your child read to an animal? The penguins in the Children’s Zoo tend to hang out and look at visitors as if they’re listening to what you’re saying. Try other calm, quiet animals like a camel or a manatee! Stuffed animals can also do the trick, so visit the Zoo Shop on your way out.

    Read to me, the fennec fox. I'm all ears!

    Read to me, the fennec fox. I’m all ears!

  6. Keep the spirit of your Zoo visit alive. What sparked your child’s interest most? Maybe it was a specific animal or plant, or perhaps it was an idea for a future career in animal care. Search for books, websites, or apps that relate to that interest. Ask your child regularly about what he’s been reading. You’ll help him comprehend and retain what he’s read.

What are you waiting for? Start cultivating those reading skills today and plan your next outing to the Cincinnati Zoo!

March 11, 2016   No Comments

Helping Scientists Assess the Body Condition of Polar Bears in the Wild

As our global climate continues to change, we are already seeing reports and photos of polar bears with decreased body condition. How can scientists track that trend in a consistent manner across the polar bear’s range over the long term? That’s a problem scientists with Polar Bears International (PBI) are working to solve.

A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)

A young polar bear male jumping in the pack ice in Norway (Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques)

The Body Condition Project is a pilot program to develop tools that non-invasively gather information on the body condition of polar bears. Conceived by PBI’s chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, it is being conducted in cooperation with the University of Wyoming and Purdue University, with support and participation of animal care and research teams at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, North Carolina Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

PBI has developed a Body Condition Index (BCI) card, which provides a standardized way to rate bears in the field through visual observation, and in some cases palpation or touch (if they are safely sedated). Over time, consistent records of body condition across years and regions will help scientists monitor individual condition, as well as how broader populations may be affected by large-scale environmental change, including loss of sea ice due to climate change.

Polar Bear Scorecard

As an Arctic Ambassador with PBI, we often facilitate research projects like the Body Condition Project that help us better understand and conserve polar bears. Last week, Marissa Krouse from PBI came to the Zoo to take 3-D photographic images of our female polar bear, Berit. The images will be compared to physical measurements we take of Berit while she’s under anesthesia in two weeks. This information will be used to improve the ability to assess the body condition of wild bears.

Marissa Krouse shoots photos of Berit

Marissa Krouse shoots photos of Berit

March 9, 2016   No Comments