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Eight Ways a Trip to the Zoo Can Stimulate Your Child’s Interest in Art

Co-written with Kristina Meek, Wild Encounters Interpreter

Sometimes we think of art and science as living at opposite ends of a spectrum. Maybe you imagine that your zoology-loving child will say, “Art is sooo boooring,” when actually, art has the power to enrich lives at any age. According to PBS, for example, exposing kids to art can positively impact their motor skills, decision making, language skills, and more. Here’s how your Zoo visit can bring art to life for your child.

  1. Notice color, and help your child do the same. A great place to start is in the Wings of the World bird house where you’ll find an array of different birds in brilliant colors. Point out how colorful plumage, such as the iconic tail feathers of a peacock, can help male birds attract mates. Ask your child to point out what colors she sees and which ones she likes best. Bring crayons and paper along so that your kids can capture what they see.

    Colorful peacock! (Photo: Deb Simon)

    Colorful peacock! (Photo: Deb Simon)

  2. Study the murals in the animal exhibits in Night Hunters. They were painted by artist John Agnew, who has also painted murals for Cincinnati Museum Center, Miami Whitewater Forest, and for zoos as far away as Moscow, Russia. As a youth, he became interested in dinosaurs and reptiles, and took part in the Dayton Museum of Natural History’s Junior Curator program. His penchant for animals and talent for a realistic style of painting combined into a successful career. Agnew helped found Masterworks for Nature, a group of 15 prominent Cincinnati area artists, who raise money for conservation through the sale of their artwork.

    Bobcat exhibit (Photo: Mike Dulaney)

    Bobcat exhibit (Photo: Mike Dulaney)

  3. Admire a reproduction of a 2013 painting by renowned wildlife artist John Ruthven entitled Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon. The painting depicts Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, leading a flock. Martha lived at the Cincinnati Zoo, and when she passed away in 1914, the passenger pigeon went extinct. This painting was reproduced by Artworks on the side of a building in Downtown Cincinnati to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Martha’s passing in 2014.

    John Ruthven with his painting, Martha - the Last Passenger Pigeon (Photo: Ron Ellis)

    John Ruthven with his painting, Martha – the Last Passenger Pigeon (Photo: Ron Ellis)

  4. Go on a scavenger hunt to find the many animal sculptures displayed throughout the Zoo. Ask your child to imagine how they were made. What can they learn about the animal’s features from studying them? Here is a short list:
    • Hippos and lions in the Africa exhibit
    • Gorillas outside Gorilla World
    • Manatees and crocodiles outside Manatee Springs
    • Galapagos tortoise near the Reptile House
    • Tiger in Cat Canyon
    • Passenger pigeon at the Passenger Pigeon Memorial

      Hippo sculpture (Photo: Shasta Bray)

      Hippo sculpture (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  5. Check out the recycled materials art in the Go Green Garden. Every year or two, the Zoo works with a school or community group to create a new piece of art for display in this space. The current piece was created by the 2014-2015 Colerain High School Ceramics/3D class. Ask your child to notice what types of recycled materials were used. What other materials could they imagine using to create their own recycled art?

    Recycled art created by Colerain High School students (Photo: Shasta Bray)

    Recycled art created by Colerain High School students (Photo: Shasta Bray)

  6. Turn your own Zoo photos into art. While you’re visiting, take lots of photos. (Why wouldn’t you?) Play with photo filters or experiment with Photoshop or a similar program at home. If your child is more tactically inclined, print the photos and together you might add borders or other embellishments. They’ll end up with a cherished memento of their visit.
  7. Visit our animal artists. Some of the animals who live at the Zoo, including elephants and rhinos, moonlight as artists. Observe each of these animals closely and see if you can figure out how they’re able to paint. Want to display a one-of-a-kind masterpiece created by one of our animal artists in your own home? Purchase one online or book a behind-the-scenes experience that involves watching a penguin, goat or elephant paint a canvas just for you.

    VIPenguin Tour

    VIPenguin Tour

  8. Get a “handimal” painted especially for your child. Visit the booth near Vine Street Village where the artists will turn your child’s handprint into a colorful and creative animal image. You’ll leave with a unique keepsake and your child will witness an artist at work.

    Handimals! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

    Handimals! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

August 3, 2016   5 Comments

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