This piece was submitted by Lucy Hickerson and Liz Klein.
Water droplets speckle onlooker’s clothes, a result of the overwhelmingly grey, crying sky. Yet, kids are jumping in puddles, playing with umbrellas, and laughing through their soaked clothes. The Smithsonian Zoo, free to enter, is a common spot for a family fun day, even while gloomy and wet.Arguably the biggest pull to the zoo is the panda exhibit, as there are only four zoos in America where you can see them. The Zoo is an ambassador for giant panda conservation, working to conserve and improve the habitats both of the pandas and any other animals in their ecosystems. In partnership with China, they study their biology, behaviors, and other factors that may help in their effort to improve their lives.
There are both signs and boards all over the panda exhibit explaining everything there is to know about them and the way they live, as well as a room filled with computer monitors displaying the footage from cameras placed to get every angle of the pandas. This viewing room is to help the zoo study their behaviors, but it’s also fun for visitors to watch. In addition to the viewing room in the panda exhibit, there are also panda cams that anyone can go online and watch at any time.
“What attracts me here is the pandas, I love them,” said Dr. Lee, a teacher with his students on a field trip to the zoo.
While the pandas are the large draw to the zoo in DC, Louisville’s zoo has its draws too, like the polar bears, baby elephant, or water park.
Dr. Lee also thinks the zoo is a good way for his students to learn visually and through interaction, all while having fun.
“A lot of these kids learn through visuals and touching, so them being at places like this helps show them what’s important and what’s not important, what to do and what not to do, and it’s also nice just have that experience with animals themselves, rather than learning solely from a book or something.”
In the visitors center, you can pick up an interactive packet for kids to fill out throughout the zoo, adding to the learning experience and possibly helping with retaining facts and information because you’re writing things down.
Learning through being in the presence of the animals is something you can do at any zoo and while that’s a great way of learning in itself, the interactive pamphlet the DC zoo has is a step up to getting youth even more involved in their learning.
The diversity and inviting atmosphere is a notable component of the family-friendly environment of the zoo. By providing live lessons at various exhibits both for the public and classes, having cutouts of animals with places for you to put your face in for a picture, and infographics all around, it is a place for both adults and kids to enjoy and learn.
Even though we’re so far away from home and the National Zoo is much bigger than ours, it’s a fun welcoming place for people all across the nation to interact and learn.
Links to explore
National Zoo Website
National Zoo Map