Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $14 Adult | $8 Child

View All Rates ›

Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $14 Adult | $8 Child

View All Rates ›

Just for Teachers

Teacher Workshops
Programs in your classroom
Programs at the Zoo
Download Tracks to the Zoo

Teacher Workshops

The Blank Park Zoo invites educators to participate in our unique, fun-filled and informative teacher workshops. Workshops are held at various locations and dates throughout the year and cover a variety of topics. Participating teachers will be eligible for a FREE zoo program.

Cost: $25 to help cover costs associated with materials and meals. All sales are final; no refunds will be honored.

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.

Workshop Dates: 

ACADEMIC YR 2019-2020: NOTE: workshops during the academic yr are held at Blank Park Zoo

Sept. 20/21, 2019            
Topic: Nature-centered Science for PreK-2

Oct. 4/5, 2019  
Topic: Conservation: People and Animals

Nov. 22/23, 2019  
Topic: Patterns In Nature

Jan. 24/25, 2020 
Topic: Climate Change

April 3/4, 2020 
Topic: Wonders of Water


For questions about teacher workshops  contact Kathy Mckee:  515-974 2557 or Angela Tague: 515-974-2546,


Biomimicry and Inspiration  Biomimicry is a growing field of scientific inquiry and technological application to the real world. It can inspire students’ interest in science, the natural world, and the built environment while teaching skills in observation, research, and critical thinking.  Participants will engage in activities introducing biologically inspired technology, why it is important (and fascinating!), and provide them with opportunities to research their own solutions to human or environmental challenges. This workshop is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, particularly those regarding engineering solutions.

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 for this workshop use a case study approach to focus on climate change and its impact on wildlife and public lands. All activities are aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Strong connections to the Iowa Core and Next Generation Science Standards are emphasized.

Conservation: People and Animals - Participants will explore the interactions between humans and animals in ecosystems, learn about local and global conservation efforts of Blank Park Zoo, and how to connect with researchers and conservationists committed to wildlife conservation around the world. 

Ecosystems –Ecosystems are comprised of living and non-living factors linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows, including predator/prey relationships; survival mechanisms; and water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles.  In this workshop, participants will learn about interactions in ecosystems and how to build and maintain an ecosystem using common, easily obtained materials. Workshop strategies will include a phenomena and driving question and will highlight the practices, cross cutting concepts, and engineering principles in the Next Generation Science Standards. Concepts presented in this workshop best fit grade levels 5-12.

Habitats and Adaptations - Participants 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, the Iowa Core Curriculum for science, math and literacy and NGSS.

Lamarck, and Wallace, and Darwin – Oh, my!  Evolution for Educators (New in 2019!)  - Evolution is the foundation for modern biological understanding and has a prominent place in Iowa’s Core for science and the Next Generation Science Standards.  In this course, educators will examine major evolutionary concepts, misconceptions about evolution, and how to address obstacles to teaching evolution

Nature-Centered Science for PreK-2 (NEW in 2019) –This course will engage participants in science investigations focused on nature and conservation and introduce them to the concept of Nature Play, where they will take away ideas for nature activities, discover the developmental value of playing outside and how such opportunities help children build skills needed for STEM learning, and learn ways to incorporate nature play opportunities indoors.  Art, language arts, math, and social studies will be integrated throughout.

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.

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.

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.

Zoo Structure and Design – Educators will learn WHY (modern) ZOO MATTER, how Blank Park Zoo helps to make a big impact in conservation right here in Iowa, as well as around the world. Participants will also learn about the structure of Blank Park Zoo, its history, present features, and future plans, as well as opportunities to use technology to connect classrooms and the zoo. Behind the scenes experiences in several areas of the zoo will allow participants to gain a deeper understanding about what it takes to provide for the needs of animals in human-care and how to impact visitors through guest experiences. 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, the Iowa Core and NGSS. 


Programs In Your Classroom 

K-12 Programming Aligned with Iowa Core Science 

These interactive classroom programs are designed to enhance your curriculum using artifacts, games, and live animals and are designed to meet the needs of all students at all levels.  Programs may be adjusted to integrate standards in social studies or language arts as well. 

Fees are $45 per each 45-60 minute program. There is a $.54/ mile round trip mileage charge for schools outside the greater Des Moines area. 

Some possible programming ideas are indicated in italics after each grade level. There may be a small added fee for supplies for some programs.

To book programs, call Mallory Machir 515-974-2620 or Kathy McKee 515-974-2557


KLS1-1 - Use observations to describe the patterns of what plants and animals need to survive (light; food, water, shelter, space); and
KESS3-1 - Use a model to represent relationships between needs of plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live; and Patterns of what plants and animals need to survive (light; food, water, shelter, space).  

Students compare different kinds of plants and animals, their habitats, and their needs – what they eat, where they live, etc. 

KESS2-2 - Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs; and 

KESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Students compare how humans, plants and animals use resources in their local environments and how they may change their environments.

Grade 1

1LS1-1 - Design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.

Students play a biomimicry matching game, and explore structures of different plants and animals, their advantages, and how they might inspire designs useful to humans.

1LS1-3 - Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.

Students play a game matching parents and offspring and observe animal or plant structures that help the organisms survive (scales, spikes, antennae, etc.) 

Grade 2

2LS2-2 - Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.

Students observe and describe the characteristics of animals that pollinate plants or disperse seeds.

2LS4-1 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

Students explore boxes representing various habitats and learn about animals that live in them.

Grade 3

3LS3-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation in these traits exist in a group of similar organisms; 

3LS4-2 Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing; and 

3LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Students play a game and observe animals and artifacts with different characteristics and describe how these characteristics may help them survive (or not!) in their environments.

Grade 4

4LS1-1 - Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction; and

4LS1-2 - Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

Students observe animals and artifacts to determine their role in their habitats, and how their internal and external structures allow them to process information and survive. 

Grade 5

5LS2-1 - Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

Students develop food webs and observe animals that play different roles in their ecosystems.

Grade 6

MSLS1-8 - Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.

Students participate in “training games” and observe and discuss animals’ responses to stimuli.

Grade 7

MSLS1-4 Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants, respectively.

Students examine different animals or plants and the behaviors that may contribute to their abilities to survive and reproduce, and interactions among plants and animals in an ecosystem that contribute to species’ survival.

MSLS2-1 - Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Students experience an activity mimicking carrying capacity in an ecosystem and discuss how changes in the ecosystem affect the organisms that live there. Animals from different ecosystems and their needs will be presented.

MSLS2-2 - Construct an explanation that explains patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems; and

MSLS2-3 - Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter among living and non-living parts of an ecosystem.

Students experience examples of symbiosis in ecosystems.

Grade 8

MSLS2-5 - Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Students explore how disruptions to any component of an ecosystem can lead to changes in populations within the system and the importance of biodiversity to the health of the ecosystem through n  activity on succession in an ecosystem and interacting with animals that may be vulnerable to changes. 

MSLS4-4 - Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment;

MSLS4-4 - Gather and synthesize information about technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms; and

MSLS4-6 - Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Students compare examples of natural and artificial selection in species and how they may affect survival and ability to reproduce.

Programs for grades 9-12 will be posted soon.


Programs At The Zoo

Zoo Field Trip

Listen to lions roar and gibbons hoot; see the seals and sea lions salute and splash; feed the goats and llamas; and pretend to be a prairie dog while on a field trip to Blank Park Zoo!

Click here for current information and to make reservations.

Self guided field trips. Field trip pricing is available for accredited public, private or charter Pre-K-12th grade schools, home school assistance programs organized through a school district, state-licensed daycare centers or day camps.

Show and Tell Education Programs

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

For field trip questions, please contact Kathy Cross at 515-974-2588

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