With the arrival of summer in June, this is the perfect month to plan a trip to the zoo. It’s also the perfect month to go “Wild about the Zoo.” This month, we’re celebrating National Zoo and Aquarium Month. Grab your hats and sunglasses, put on a bit of sunscreen, and launch into summer with the activity ideas listed below.
BUILD A ZOO – Challenge participants to build a miniature zoo. On tables, place a variety of identical building materials, such as empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, jumbo marshmallows, blocks, corks, and/or construction paper. Then, give each table identical miniature zoo animal figurines to include in their zoo. On index cards, write identical criteria that the zoo must meet, so that each table is working with the same parameters. Examples include: must have a bridge, elephant habitat must have a pond, aviary located in the center of the zoo, etc. Divide participants into equal groups. Instruct participants to work together to create their zoo. Skip the zoo criteria if that’s too challenging, or build one zoo if you have a smaller group size.
ZOO-GA – Add variety to your yoga class by practicing poses that relate to zoo animals. Roar like a lion. Balance on one foot like a flamingo (holding onto another chair, or from a seated position simply lift one foot up). Reach an arm up in the air and munch leaves with your hand like a giraffe. Gently beat your chest with fists like a gorilla. Imitate the sound of a snake to incorporate facial muscles. Swing an arm loosely in front like an elephant’s trunk. Make up a few of your own, using other zoo animals for inspiration. Check out Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids at your local library for other simple yoga pose ideas.
ZOO BINGO – Change up your group’s bingo game by playing Zoo Bingo. Create your own cards by drawing a blank BINGO grid on a piece of paper. Write the letters B-I-N-G-O across the top. Use a copier to make enough copies for your group. Then, use zoo animal stickers, purchased from a craft store, and place one sticker on each blank space, filling the card. Keep a list of animals to create your calling words. Write each animal name on an index card and shuffle before playing. Prizes can be zoo animal crackers or other zoo memorabilia.
ZOO MEMORIES – Reminisce with your group about their memories of the zoo. Collect a variety of stuffed animals of typical animals you find in the zoo to bring this activity to life. Pick an animal to begin the activity and pass it around to participants. As they touch the animal, ask what memories it evokes. Can they describe how the actual animal feels or smells? Where did they first remember seeing such animal? Continue with each animal. Other questions to consider: Where was their first zoo experience? What’s their favorite zoo animal? Where’s their favorite zoo? What makes it so special?
SPIRIT ZOO ANIMAL – In certain cultures, there is a belief that we travel with a cadre of spirit guides, which also includes animals. Today, having a “spirit animal” is somewhat of a trend, especially in the younger generations. Have fun with this trend by asking members to pick a zoo animal to be their spirit animal, such as a lion, tiger, eagle, giraffe, or flamingo. Hire a professional face painter to paint members’ faces in the pattern of their spirit zoo animal. Combine this activity with “Zoo-Ga” for a wild time.
ROLL-A-DANCE – Although a children’s book, Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is perfect for any audience. Pick up a copy or check it out at your library. Then, label a large blank die with the different dances mentioned in the book (waltz, cha-cha, tango, etc.). Gather participants and start by reading the book to the group. Then, select a member to roll the die. Turn on dance music and encourage participants to try a few steps of the rolled dance. Can they remember which animal group danced that dance? Keep going, until each participant has had an opportunity to roll the die. Alternatively, use a regular die and coordinate the numbers on the die with a specific dance.
TRIVIA GONE WILD – Challenge your group on their animal kingdom knowledge with this friendly trivia competition. Before the activity, search the internet, or skim trivia books on your shelf for zoo-related questions and answers. You could also challenge your group to name zoo animals. Divide participants into two equal groups. Ask each team to pick a zoo animal and adjective for their team name, (Roaring Lions, for example). Then, start with team one and ask the first question. Give one point for each question answered correctly. If the team doesn’t know the answer, the opposing team can steal it for an additional point. Use the trivia below to help get you started.
SENSORY ZEBRA SLIME – Try making this fun zebra slime with your group for a sensational experience. Fun-A-Day has a tried-and-true recipe that’s perfect for even older adults. Add some zoo figurines for a fun one-on-one or small group reminiscing activity. Supervise participants when making and working with the slime, as it is not edible.
SCAVENGER HUNT – If your group takes a trip to the zoo, create a scavenger hunt for members to complete. Before your outing, create your scavenger hunt. Keep it simple by asking participants to find certain animals during your visit, (lion, giraffe, gorilla, panda, etc.). Up the challenge by asking members to find animals giving only their attributes, (an animal with sharp teeth, a herbivore, an orange animal, etc.). Give each participant a scavenger list when you first enter the zoo. At the end of the visit, collect their lists and give prizes to the participants who completed the hunt.
SKETCH WILDLIFE – Another fun way to add variety to a visit to the zoo is to ask your group to sketch wildlife. Pack a few sketch pads or clipboards with a piece of paper attached, along with drawing pencils. Find a shady spot with a bench nearby, so that members can sit and sketch. Give participants a few minutes to sketch before continuing with your visit.
ZOO-TO-YOU EDUCATION – Use this month as an opportunity to make connections with your local zoo. Many zoos offer educational classes that can travel to your location. With the school year ending, zoo educators may have more time to visit your group. Reach out and invite someone from the zoo to visit your group. They can talk about zoo conservation, the history of their zoo, or ways members can help support the zoo.
KANGAROO KABOBS – Make these refreshing fruit skewers with your group and serve them at your next social event. Start by dicing pineapple, cantaloupe, and watermelon into large chunks with your group. Rinse and de-stem strawberries. Finally, rinse and pick apart grapes. Place each fruit in a separate bowl. Give participants a wooden skewer and instruct them to skewer one piece of each fruit onto the kabob. Continue until you’ve run out of fruit. If you’re not serving immediately, place kabobs on a serving platter and refrigerate until ready to eat.
ZOO-VIE NIGHTS – Turn your group’s weekly movie night into a “zoo-vie” night by featuring one of many movies relating to the animal kingdom. Here are a few G-rated titles to help you get started: The Wild, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Brother Bear, and Animals United. Turn it into a family night by inviting members’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Before the film begins, you could sing some animal songs like these: “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” or “Going to the Zoo” by Tom Paxton.
WILD ABOUT THE ZOO TRIVIA
- Topping out anywhere between 14-18 feet, what is the tallest land animal? Giraffe
- Although loved throughout the entire world, the giant panda is considered a “National Treasure” in which country? China
- Ostriches aren’t the only birds that cannot fly. Can you name another bird that is also grounded? Penguin, Kiwi, Emu, Kakapo
- How many eyelids does a camel have on each eye: one, two, or three? Three
- Which animal is the best jumper in the animal kingdom? Kangaroo (They can jump over 30 feet in one jump, and up to six feet high.)
- Which U.S. Zoo has the most annual visitors? San Diego Zoo
- If you wanted to become a zookeeper, which field of study would you pursue? Zoology
- What is the animal classification of a dolphin? Mammal
- What is the largest type of “big cat” in the world? Siberian Tiger
- Opening in 1752, the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world is located in London, Vienna, or Paris? Vienna
WILD ABOUT THE ZOO THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Zoo animals are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.” ~ Jack Hanna
“Wild About the Zoo” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2019 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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