Zoo Explorers

Zoo Explorers student participants at Lincoln Park Zoo

Structured Learning at Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoo Explorers is a facilitated, 55-minute, on-grounds program for school groups. Each program focuses on inquiry-based animal investigations aligned with the work of zoo scientists. The field trips are appropriate for students at the pre-K–fifth grade levels.

Each program is facilitated by a trained zoo educator with the support of the classroom teacher and accompanying chaperones. During explorations, students complete data sheets that help them carefully observe animals. Hands-on investigation of specimens and objects are also part of the experience.

Explorations are linked to the Illinois State Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Standards.

Zoo Explorers Fees

Off-Season Programs (September–March): $20

Busy Season Programs (April–June): $40

Please note that Zoo Explorers cancellations made with less than 48 hours notice are subject to a cancellation fee.

Zoo Explorers Scholarships

Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to offer program and transportation scholarships for Zoo Explorers, courtesy of Quest Foundation.

These scholarships provide Chicago-based classes with the opportunity to participate in a Zoo Explorers program at Lincoln Park Zoo, with bus transportation provided. Lincoln Park Zoo will supply recipients with two buses and free Zoo Explorers programs for all classes that attend (up to three programs/day).

You must be able to complete your program by March 31 to be considered. Scholarship recipients will be notified by phone and email.

Apply for a Zoo Explorers Scholarship

Scholarships are limited, and submitting a scholarship application does not guarantee receipt of a scholarship. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until all scholarships have been distributed. Lincoln Park Zoo awards scholarships based on the application essay and needs of students. For more information, contact zooexplorers@lpzoo.org or 312-742-2056.

Making the Most of Your Field Trip

As you prepare for your visit, we encourage you to visit our Plan a Field Trip page. A few easy steps will help you make the most of trip to Lincoln Park Zoo!

Zoo Explorers Programs

Zoo Explorers program are well suited for students from pre-K to fifth grade. The recommended grade level is listed next to each program. However, if you think a different program may be better suited to your students you can consult with the program’s facilitator to talk about your options. The facilitator may be reached at zooexplorers@lpzoo.org or by phone at 312-742-6230.

Animal Identification
Recommended for grade level: Pre-K
Can you find a meerkat? What about a red-footed tortoise? In this program, little ones are encouraged to focus on descriptive elements such as size, color and movement to identify different species in one of Lincoln Park Zoo’s most diverse buildings. Using critical thinking and motor skills, students will identify a variety of zoo animals as they hold and flip through specialized early childhood field guides!

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Making Observations
Recommended for grade level: Kindergarten
From beaks and feet to eggs and feathers, students learn that Lincoln Park Zoo is home to many bird species. Students explore a bird habitat and see many different species of birds. With careful observations, they will identify similarities and differences in how birds look and what birds do.

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Animal Classification
Recommended for grade level: First Grade
Furry or scaly, feathered or slimy—there are plenty of animal coverings to explore! Students will learn how scientists group or classify animals and discover animals can be sorted into groups based on how they look and live. After observing similarities and differences between species, students will classify many different animals at the zoo.

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Animal Habitats
Recommended for grade level: Second Grade
Whether it’s in the water or up in a tree, there’s no place like home. Students discover that animals are specially adapted for each unique habitat. As students explore the zoo, they’ll learn what habitats have in common as well as how they differ.

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Predators and Prey
Recommended for grade level: Third Grade
How does a lion acquire food? How does a zebra escape predators? Students will learn how animals’ physical and behavioral characteristics help them survive by enabling them to track down prey or elude hungry predators. Students explore predator and prey relationships among zoo animals by identifying the animals they see as predators or prey based on adaptations.

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Animals Living Together
Recommended for grade level: Fourth Grade
Why do jaguars prefer to hunt alone while lions hunt in a group? As students explore the zoo, they will learn the difference between solitary animals that prefer to live alone and social animals that prefer to live in groups. As students observe different species, they will record discoveries and draw conclusions based on what they saw.

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Animal Behavior
Recommended for grade level: Fifth Grade
Scientists study animals and their behavior to gain a better understanding of wildlife. As students explore the zoo, they will focus their observations on animal behavior, also known as ethology. During their visit, students will record data using an ethogram (a checklist scientists use to record animal behavior) and then draw conclusions about what they saw.

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Comparing Animal Behavior
Recommended for grade level: Sixth–Eighth Grade
Scientists study and compare animal behaviors to provide the best quality of care at the zoo and to better conserve species in the wild. Students will observe different species at the zoo, collect data using an interactive ethology (animal-behavior) tool and analyze and discuss their findings with their classmates and the zoo facilitator. 

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Urban Biodiversity
Recommended for grade level: Sixth–Eighth Grade
Black-crowned night herons, gray squirrels and American bullfrogs–these are just some of the urban wildlife species you might find in Chicago. In this program, students will use an interactive field guide to explore Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, identify local species and learn how the study of biodiversity helps scientists understand the urban environment.

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This program is made possible through the generous support of Quest Foundation and Bowman C. Lingle Trust.

For more information about a Zoo Explorers program, email zooexplorers@lpzoo.org or call 312-742-6230.

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Teachable Moments
Read about how zoo educators push students past their comfort zones by taking on the role of scientists at the zoo.