It’s as easy as ABC… a guide to STEM learning at ZSEA Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo

- 14th Dec, 2017

How should we engage the next generation to learn more about animals and nature? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and more specifically, refers to a type of learning that is both applied and cross-curricular. Well look no further as ZSEA have produced this very handy guide to STEM learning at the Zoo…

S… is for Snake

Animal handling is an important of any zoo as it helps children to engage with the natural world as well as bring STEM learning to life. Both ZSEA Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo have around 17 species of small animals which are used in the zoos’ discovery sessions. Seeing animals up close helps to dispel any fears that children have about some of the more slimy, creepy or scuttling animals in the zoo.

T… is for Touch

Handling sessions at the zoo also include biofacts – animal artefacts such as skins, bones, eggs and feathers. The Education Department possess a large number of animal artefacts, many of which have been donated by H.M Customs. Some of these specimens include reptile skins, stuffed crocodiles and pieces of coral. Animals at the zoo additionally produce a lot of artefacts – moults from tarantula, feathers that have been shed by birds and footprints cast in plaster from animal enclosures. All of these bioartefacts allow students to get a feel for textures, weights and sizes in ways that would not always be possible with live animals!

E… is for Enjoyment

Enjoyment is a hugely important part of any Discovery Session programme. In other words, how can children engage with the subject if they are not enjoying the session? The Education Team at ZSEA teach around 15,000 students a year and so it is vitally important that both children and educators are able to take part in sessions in a fun and engaging way. Popular sessions at the zoo are ‘Babies and Growth’ the ‘Guess the Egg’ game, ‘Lifecycle Sorting’ and the use of a tarantula shed.

M… is for Music and Movement

Many Discovery Sessions make use of music and movement to ensure that children remain active and engaged. Familiar songs with an added twist such as ‘Old Macdonald had a Zoo’ are very popular among children and adults who are more than happy to join in with a song they know and the animal handling that accompanies it. The zoo also encourages children to move like animals or to get up from their seats and participate, with activities such as sorting. At Africa Alive! the action safari goes one step further – taking place out in the Park, playing games such as ‘bugs and bat-eared foxes’ and ‘lions versus zebras!’

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