Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Open 9a-5p, last admission 4p

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Open 9a-5p, last admission 4p

View All Rates ›

Just for Teachers

Teacher Workshops
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: 

June 8/9, 2020 - CANCELLED
Wonders of Water, F W Kent Park, Oxford, IA


Topic: Wonders of Water

Biomimicry and Inspiration, Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines

ACADEMIC YR 2020/2021 - NOTE: workshops during the academic yr are held at Blank Park Zoo

Oct. 2/3, 2020
Ecosystems (bottle biology)

Nov. 20/21, 2020
Habitats and Adaptations

Jan. 22/23, 2021
Wild Genes

Feb. 26/27, 2021
Topic to be determined

April 9/10, 2021
Zoo Structure and Design

For questions about teacher workshops  contact Education Staff at or 515-974-2550


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 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.

Animal Programs

Enhance your zoo field trip with an Animal Program! One of our educators will bring up three animal friends to a special 30 minute program just for your group. Guests will get an up close introduction to some of our animal ambassadors. Cost of Animal Programs are $50 for up to 50 people.

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

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