Just for Teachers - Blank Park Zoo

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Teacher Workshops

The Blank Park Zoo would like to invite teachers to teacher workshops to be held at various locations and dates throughout the year. Participating teachers will be eligible for a FREE zoo program.

Cost: $20 to help cover costs associated with materials and meals. 

License renewal will be made available. All workshop activities are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and the Iowa Core for science, with connections to literacy, math, and social studies.


Academic Year 2015/2016 - All academic year workshops are held at Blank Park Zoo Friday evenings and all day Saturdays.
February 19/20, 2016 - Climate Change
April 15/16, 2016 - Wonders of Water

Click Here to fill out a workshop registration form, or......
Participants can register by contacting Kathy McKee - kamckee@blankparkzoo.org

For Questions, call the Zoo Education Office: 515-974-2557 or 515-974-2546

Workshop Descriptions

Participants in our workshops engage in relevant inquiry investigations that are connected to the Iowa Core and Next Generation Science Standards, learn research-based instructional practices, and gain knowledge and ideas that will be useful in their classrooms. Lessons are flexible, allowing teachers to adjust for their students’ abilities; and relate to all age groups in several subject areas (science, literacy, mathematics, social studies, and the arts).

Habitats and Adaptations - Teachers will experience a module created by the Wildlife Conservation Society (Habitat Ecology Learning Program), as well as materials from NSTA and the Council for Environmental Education. These resources utilize art, math, geography and live science to explore ecology. The lessons are designed to motivate students, encourage critical thinking, and make learning fun. This course will specifically focus on animal adaptations and different habitats, with visits from live animals from various ecosystems! Lessons are flexible, allowing teachers to adjust for their students’ abilities; and relate to all age groups in several subject areas. All lessons are connected to the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Iowa Core Curriculum for science, math and literacy.

Zoo Structure and Design – Educators will learn about the structure of Blank Park Zoo, its history, present state, and future plans, as well as opportunities to use technology to connect classrooms and the zoo. Behind the scenes experiences in several parts of the zoo will allow participants to gain a deeper understanding about what it takes to provide for the needs of animals in captivity. Activities will include designing a zoo exhibit that demonstrates knowledge of species habitats, adaptations, and requirements, and utilizes engineering practices found in the Framework for K-12 Science Education. All experiences are aligned to the Framework and the Iowa Core.

Climate Change - Educators will participate in learning activities designed by a collaborative of seven national organizations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the National Parks service, and U.S. Forest Service.
The activities are organized in a DVD based Toolkit that uses a case study approach to focus on climate change and its impact on wildlife and public lands. All activities have been reviewed by scientists and by educators from the 2008 Einstein Fellowship Program and are aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Strong connections to the Iowa Core are emphasized.

Wonders of Water - Participants will explore the physical properties of water, various water habitats, and water related conservation concerns. Activities will include water testing, comparisons of various water habitats and the organisms that depend on them, examination of current water issues and concerns, and development of lessons to be utilized in the classroom. As in all of our workshops, materials are research-based and are aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Iowa Core.

Conservation:People and Animals - Participants will explore positive and negative interactions between humans and animals in ecosystems, learn about conservation efforts in which Blank Park Zoo is a partner, and how to connect with researchers and conservationists committed to wildlife conservation around the world.

Wild Genes – Participants explore genetic diversity in plants and animals, learn about the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Program, and meet some families of animals here at the zoo.  While genetics content is generally presented in middle and high school, we will be showing how concepts at the elementary level articulate to upper grades and will be doing investigations for all levels.

Patterns in Nature – This course will explore patterns in nature using science, mathematics, art, and literature.  Participants will gain knowledge about camouflage, biomimicry, aposematism, fractals, Fibonacci, and sound and movement patterns in plant and animal populations.

Pollinators: Birds do it; Bees do it...and so do Lemurs and Lizards! –  This course will  explore plants and the animals that pollinate them.  Participants will engage in explorations about bees, butterflies and other animal pollinators and their importance in our lives; interrelationships in ecosystems; agricultural engineering;  and ways to help protect our pollinator species.

Programs in your classroom

Call the Education Department at (515) 974-2557 or (515) 974-2546 to reserve a date.

Show and Tells
Turn your class into a real wild place with live animals from the zoo! We will bring four education animals of your choice, and if you like, we can focus on the topics or themes that you are teaching in class and share age appropriate information with your students. In this very popular program, students will have an opportunity to touch and ask questions about the animals. Presentations are suitable for groups up to 35 students, and are usually between 30 to 45 minutes long.

Cost is $45.00 for a 45 minute presentation (we can do multiple back-to-back programs.) Mileage charge applies for schools outside the greater Des Moines area.

Alive in the Class!
Ever notice how your class comes alive when you talk about animals and the wild world of nature? Have you ever wished you had snakes and alligators and bats to enhance student learning? Well, now your wish can come true! Supplement your class materials with a visit from the Blank Park Zoo and take your curriculum a step further by challenging your students with hands-on-activities and visits from live animals.

Each Alive in the Classroom! program is specially developed to meet curriculum standards and includes interactive learning tools and dynamic activities that are age appropriate, conducted by trained Blank Park Zoo Educators. Fees are $45 for each 30 to 45 minute program. A minimum of three presentations is preferred, but not required, for each school. (Presentations do not have to be the same) There is a small mileage charge for schools outside the greater Des Moines area. 


Alive in the Class program Choices:

PreK - K
Kinds of Creatures Children compare skin to scales, fingers to fur in this special introduction to the animal kingdom.
30 min.
Creepy Crawlies  Explore the unique characteristics of insects using a "bug" costume, and live critters.
45 min.
K- 2 Marvelous Mammals Furry friends help teach your students the unique characteristics of mammals.
K - 2
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones Your students will have an "egg-citing" time learning about the egg-straordinary animals that come from eggs.
30 min.


3rd - 5th Animal Detectives  Animals leave clues like fur, tracks and droppings. In this engaging, hands-on detective program, we will use reasoning skills and make sense of  "animal clues."
45 min.
3rd - 5th World Habitats  Take your students on a trip around the world with the help of our Habitat Boxes. Students will learn about animals, plants, and conservation issues from each habitat in this challenging, inquiry-based program.
1 hour
3rd - 5th Water Wonders
Water covers 75% of the Earth's surface. We'll investigate the variety of water forms from Iowa wetlands to the oceans of our world. Examining water samples and discussing conservation issues will bring real learning to life.
1 hour


6th-8th Animal Artifacts
Investigate the Blank Park Zoo's treasured collection of animal artifacts. The collection includes skulls, hides, teeth, fur, skeletons, and much more.
1 hour
6th-8th Veterinary Investigations Solve the mysterious illnesses of zoo animals with your microscope, thinking, and deduction skills.
1 hour
6th-8th Zoo Careers
Compare the variety of animal care careers available at the zoo. From caretakers to curators, which one is right for you?
1 hour


Programs at your school

Animal Assemblies
If you are thinking of something BIG, then an Animal Assembly might be the program for your school. Similar to a Show and Tell presentation, Animal Assemblies cater to a larger audience size, and we would recommend some of our larger animals, such as the hawk or python. Contact with the animals is typically limited with this presentation.

Cost is $180 for a 45 minute presentation. Mileage charge applies for schools outside the greater Des Moines area.

Character Counts Assembly
Blank Park Zoo is proud to present alligators, snakes, good character and you! This presentation uses live animals to teach students to respect life and nature and take responsibility for their rooms, homes, school, and community. We also explore how the Six Pillars of Character are just like the components of nature, in that they are all dependent on one another. Students will be challenged to be good citizens, and make kind and caring choices. Cost is $180 for a 45 minute presentation. Mileage charge applies to schools outside the greater Des Moines area.


Programs at the Zoo

Zoo Field Trip
First hand experiences like getting nose to nose with a tiger, crawling through tunnels like a prairie dog, and listening to the lions roar will spark a world of wonderment.

Click here for current information and to make reservations.

Show and Tell Education Programs
Enhance your zoo field trip with a Show and Tell Education Program! One of our educators will bring four animal friends for a special 30 minute presentation just for your group. Guests will get an up close introduction to some exotic zoo friends and get to touch most or all of the animals in the presentation. Cost of Show and Tells are $45 for up to 50 people.

For field trip questions, please contact Jessica Schellhorn at 515-974-2588


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