Before class, print out enough copies of the worksheets (template here) so that each of your preteens has a copy. If your class is meeting online, email the template and have students print out a copy to use at home. Invite them to have pens/pencils and colored markers/pencils ready.
It’s probably safe to say that each of you has been to the zoo at least once in your lifetime. Visiting the zoo is a common field trip experience in elementary school, families enjoy trips to the zoo during the warm summer months (and even the cold winter months too!), and checking out a zoo in a different city is often a highlight for kids and families on vacations throughout the country.
- What are some of your favorite zoo memories? (Allow students to share; be prepared to share your own experience.)
Today, you get to experience some of the work a zookeeper has to do when creating a habitat for an animal. Take a moment to think of two animals you enjoy. Now, imagine what a combination of those two animals could be called. For example, a frog and an alligator could be a “frogigator.” Or, a duck and a giraffe could be a “duckaffe.”
Distribute “Zookeeper for a Day” worksheets and pens/pencils and markers. Allow students to work individually, with partners, or in small groups. Have students write the name of their mixed-up animals on their papers. Give them time to brainstorm and write the details and specifics about their animal; the “Zookeeper for a Day” worksheet will help guide their thoughts and discussion.
If your students struggle to come up with a combination, you can share this website with the class:
Crazy Mixed Up Animals
When groups have finished, come back together as a class. Allow the groups to share the specific details they came up with for their animal.
- Was it easy or difficult to think of specific details for your mixed-up animal? What made it easy? What was hard about creating an exhibit? (Answers will vary.)
- Even though these animals aren’t real, do the details that you provided for each animal help you to think through or understand what animals do and why they might be important or beneficial to the earth? Explain your answer. (Answers will vary as students share their experiences and thoughts.)
Zoos all over the world work very hard to create environments for the animals that allow them to live much like they would if they were in the wild. Instead of having the animals in concrete pens or metal cages, zookeepers work with scientists and veterinarians to create habitats that meet the needs of each animal in their care—zebras, giraffes, and elephants at the St. Louis Zoo live in an area of the zoo made to look like the African savanna. The Brookfield Zoo in Illinois built a Tropical World exhibit that is much like the rainforest; all kinds of monkeys from South America, Africa, and Asia live there. At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, Alaska, visitors observe moose, bison, caribou, and brown bears in their natural habitat. Caring for animals is an important and difficult job.
This morning, you evaluated the needs of your imaginary animal. Imagine thinking through the needs of an entire zoo full of animals—that’s what zookeepers have to do! And imagine what it would be like to think of those details for every single animal on earth—we can’t begin to fully grasp that challenge! And yet, that’s exactly what happened. God made every little thing and put it exactly where He wanted it; each one has a specific purpose. Let’s take a closer look the purpose of God’s creation and how He expects us to be purposeful in caring for His creation.