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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

An Advanced Inquiry Program Graduate’s Look Back

The Zoo congratulates all of its recent graduates of the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP)! Did you know you can earn your Master’s Degree at the Zoo? Applications for the next year’s cohort are due on February 28.

Here is what one of our 2015 graduates, Faith Hilterbrand, has to say about the influence the AIP program has had on both her personal and professional life.

Guest blogger: Faith Hilterbrand (AIP-CZBG ‘15)

Have you ever had the feeling of being in just the right place, at just the right time?  I had been a junior high science teacher for seven years when Cincinnati Zoo’s Master’s program with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly appeared in my email.  I skimmed it, flagged it and thought “I’ll check this out later.”  So there it was, every day when I opened my email, and I finally gave it the attention it deserved.  As I began reading, idea after idea popped into my head and suddenly I was excited to apply.  Upon acceptance into the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) at the Cincinnati Zoo, a new challenge was thrown my way as I took a new position teaching high school life sciences.  I mean if you are going to test new waters, you may as well dive in!

The AIP quickly taught me how long it had been since I had felt the pressure of being a student.  I had to learn how to find balance while also still producing work that I was proud of at my job and in the classroom.  I often felt just like my students when faced with a new assignment, which helped me to be a better, more compassionate teacher.  The class meetings held at the Cincinnati Zoo were a time for learning and enthralling experiences, getting to see the animals up close and personal, but more importantly, I received support from classmates and instructors.  It was encouraging to know others felt as I did, and the collaborative approach to the coursework made a more significant impact on myself and each of our communities.  The focus on inquiry, scientific experimentation, and technical writing were all skills that were developed due to the coursework in the AIP and made me a more effective science teacher in preparing my students for their next academic step.  What I was not prepared for was the change it would evoke in my career aspirations and personal goals.

Learning about the Zoo's American burying beetle reintroduction project

Learning about the Zoo’s American burying beetle reintroduction project

The Advanced Inquiry Program has served as the cornerstone of change for my professional life.  The most amazing aspect is that I had zero intentions of that when I began the program.  The instructors and classmates that I was exposed to in Dragonfly, both at the Cincinnati Zoo and in online courses, were the source of inspiration that began to challenge my previously conceived career notions.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by people with a variety of ages, experiences, current work positions, and geographic locations, and I gained the courage to step outside the typical predetermined teaching path.  As I became acquainted with fellow Dragonflyer’s, I realized my own desire for professional growth and change.

Presenting results from a wetland inquiry with fellow AIP students

Presenting results from a wetland inquiry with fellow AIP students

That is the beauty of the Advanced Inquiry Program – I was able to tailor my learning to meet my professional needs and open new doors in the future.  I travelled the world, created my own internship, and gained invaluable knowledge and networking opportunities that connected education with conservation.  I knew moving forward that my teaching background would prove instrumental in taking the fork in my career path instead of staying the course.  As I have taken a year to reflect, explore, and dream of my next position, it is all the people associated with the AIP and Project Dragonfly that have encouraged and challenged me to follow my own path.

Meeting a cinereous vulture following a field course in Mongolia

Meeting a cinereous vulture following a field course in Mongolia

January 7, 2016   1 Comment