Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Day Full of Adventures!

If you are a nature and animal lover, you will feel like you've arrived to paradise as you enter through the gates of the Santa Ana Zoo. If you feel that nature, animals, and everything wild give chills and make you squirm, then the Santa Ana Zoo will perhaps give you a different perspective of these things. The Santa Ana Zoo is the place to go to if you want to encounter various kinds of animals, plants, and habitats, all in one place. It is also a great place for children to experience outdoors education in a way that they will never forget. The zoo, located on 1801 East Chestnut Avenue Santa Ana, CA 92701 , is an inexpensive way for students to experience nature and its creatures at its fullest. Student admission is only $4.00 and teacher admission is $6.00. For all other visitors, children and senior admission is $5.00 and adult admission is $8.00. Gates are open to the public the seven days of the week, with the exception of Christmas Day and New Years Day.

What Benefits Could my Students Gain From Visiting the Santa Ana Zoo?

Gueese at the Santa Ana Zoo farm.
A rhea searching for food.

The Santa Ana Zoo offers an excellent opportunity for students of all ages to benefit in many educational ways. The zoo is the perfect oudoors classroom for life and Earth sciences. At the zoo, kindergardeners can observe, rather than just learn about from pictures and books in the classroom, the differences and similarities between various animals and plants. The Science Content Standards for California Public Schools require that students in the first grade know that different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments. With its great variety of animals and habitats, the zoo can also be used to plan lessons around this concept and help students fully understand it. Overall, students will have the maximum learning experience as they pet and feed animals at the farm, walk through a jungle of monkeys, and explore an amazon of exotic birds. These are only a few ways in which students will benefit from this fieldtrip.

What Would I Need to do to Prepare Students for the Visit?

A fieldtrip, although fun and exciting, also requires thoughtful preparation. Various things have to be taken into consideration when planning a fieldtrip, and a trip to the zoo is no exception. Prior to the trip, I will need to prepare students with a series of lessons or thematic unit that will focus on particular topics fit for the zoo, for example, that different kinds of animals and plants inhabit different kinds of environments. Among some of the preparations that need to be taken, accommodations for English learners and students with special needs need to be made. The visit to the zoo, in itself is an experience that will aid the learning of English learners. Being able to have a visual representation of the animals, plants, and habitats help English learners as well as all other students to make a connection with the things they will have already learned about in the classroom. The zoo has also taken into account that accommodations for people with special needs need to be made, for that reason, all of the animal exhibits are wheelchair friendly, and wheelchairs are also available free of charge.

Prior to the field trip, it is also important to discuss the zoo rules with students. Students need to be informed of the rules before hand, and also need to be fully aware of the consequences of breaking the zoo rules. I, as an educator, always make sure students are aware that miscunduct will not be tolerated and that we must respect others and their belongings as we would like strangers that come into our classrooms to respect us and our belongings. The rules for the Santa Ana Zoo can be found at its website at: http://santaanazoo.org/

What Resource Materials are Available to Assist my Preparation?

In the classroom I will use various resources to prepare for the fieldtrip to the Santa Ana Zoo. As part of a thematic unit I will use various tools such as expository text books, charts, diagrams, and magazines to prepare my students. Zoobooks magazines are an excellent resource filled with information about animals that we may study. Students might even choose an animal they want to see at the zoo and research it on children's educational websites prior to the trip. To ensure children's safety online, I will research the websites before students have access to them. I will also introduce students to some of the animals, plants, and habitats they might encounter by showing them pictures to help become familiar with these.

What Will I do to Debrief Students After the Fieldtrip?

There are several activities that can be done to debrief students after the fieldtrip. One of them would be to hold a class discussion in which students can share several things such as what they enjoyed about the trip, what they disliked, did they see something that surprised them, were they able to see the animal or plant they researched, and so on.

A more productive activity to do would be to have students complete a graphic organizer. For example, students could complete a three map to organize the habitats they came across and the animals and plants that inhabited each type of environmental habitat.

Students could also write in their science journal in response to some of the following prompts:

  • What did I find out about the different environments and the animals and plants that inhabit them?
  • What new things did I learn?
  • What were some of the animals or plants we have learned about that I was able to see at the zoo?
  • How do the things I saw today relate to what I have learned in the classroom?

For the younger students, instead of writing, I can ask them to draw pictures in response to the prompts.

One last thing I can do is ask students to write a letter in which they explain what they learned from their experience. The letter will be addressed to themselves and I will mail it out to them a month later. This will allow them to reflect back and assess their own learning.

Into the Santa Ana Zoo!

One of the many beautiful gardens.
A family of slider turtles basking in the sun.

Scarlet ibis birds resting on top of trees.

Visitors being silly in the jungle (my dorky sister and brother).

The exploration outpost!
Welcome to the Farm!
It's farming time!

Trying to pet the pony.

Petting the goat.

It's a guanaco, an ancestor of the llama.

About the Author

My name is Guadalupe Marquez. I have periodically visited the Santa Ana Zoo since I was in elementary many, many years ago. I received a Bachelors of Science in Child and Adolescent Development at California State University, Fullerton. I am also currently enrolled there in the BCLAD credential program. For many years now, I have worked with children and I feel like it never gets old. I enjoy every minute of it. My first job working with children was as a youth sports coach and for the past 5 years I have been employed for an elementary school as a Bilingual Paraeducator. I also substitute teach at the same elementary school. As an educator, I enjoy learning experiences in which children can actively and constructively participate and learn. The zoo is the perfect place for this to happen.