Learning on the Go

June 1, 2023

Connecting people with nature in an inspiring and educational way is always on Lincoln Park Zoo’s to-do list. That’s why, when you’re on grounds, you’ll often see teams of volunteers or staff members facilitating our interactive mobile learning stations. These stations allow guests of all ages to think about issues like climate change while learning about the zoo, exploring animal adaptations, and finding out more about zoo science.

So, next time you are at the zoo, look out for these cool stations and consider stopping by when you see one. You and your family can do a quick activity and go about your day, or stick around and chat with knowledgeable volunteers and staff. No matter what ages are represented in your group, you can participate at your level. It’s a great way to upgrade your zoo visit in a meaningful way even if you just have a few minutes to spare.

Note that the availability of the themed mobile learning stations and their locations are often dependent on the weather. Here are the ones you’ll find around the grounds this summer:

Animal Investigations

Location: In and around Pepper Family Wildlife Center

Volunteers Jennie and Sue Ann help guests learn how to use an ethogram by recording African lion behavior.


This mobile learning station helps visitors learn why it’s important to observe animal behaviors. It’ll teach you how to use an ethogram, a tool that lists all behaviors of interest, to study individual animals at the zoo. Children can even record their own observations of the lion pride!

You can also find out more about the science the zoo does and how we go about it. Learn about ZooMonitor, an app created by the zoo to record these types of observations. The use of ZooMonitor helped the designers of Pepper Family Wildlife Center create a habitat that’s of optimal use to both humans and big cats. Our volunteers can even point out some of the amazing features in the lion habitat that make it such a great living space—a direct result of the very types of observations you are making at this station.

Animals Like Us

Location: In and around Regenstein African Journey

Did you know that humans share a lot of similarities with animals? We are, after all, animals ourselves. The biofacts included with this mobile learning station illustrate those similarities and how they’re important. You’ll get the opportunity to look at model skulls and bones, along with other parts of animals, and compare them to your own anatomy.

This is a favorite station for zoo volunteers, and it’s easy to see why. They get to amaze guests with fun facts about rhinos, giraffes, bears, zebras, and more—all while building connections between humans and animals through the physical traits we all share.

Build a Primate

Location: In and around Regenstein Macaque Forest

You can simply have fun putting magnetic pieces of heads, bodies, and limbs together to build different kinds of primates with this cart. But along the way you’ll probably learn something about five of the primate species at Lincoln Park Zoo and the adaptations they have, which help them survive in their native habitats.

Primates all look very different based on where they live, so volunteers can help you figure out what kinds of adaptations work best for different climates on different continents. For example, the length of the tail may provide clues as to whether or not your primate creations are arboreal, since long tails can help them balance in trees. Ultimately, you can learn not just about these animals that so genetically close to humans, but also how we can help them in the wild.

Where’s Wildlife

Location: In and around Pepper Family Wildlife Center

Joe Frumkin of the zoo’s Guest Engagement team explains how researchers track lions in northern Tanzania.


This mobile learning station is a favorite of staff because of the illustration, created by the zoo’s Senior Designer Ashley Bedore, that mixes textures, sights, and interactivity in a colorful and accessible map of Tanzania. At first glance, a lot of people don’t realize it’s not the zoo they’re looking at—at least, not until they take a closer look and view icons representing African cities, parks, lakes, and animals. In fact, the image is a “wimmelbild,” which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever read a Where’s Waldo book. This means, of course, that you can just spend time looking at it to find all the cool details embedded within.

The theme of this station is coexistence. It shows how people in the northern Tanzanian ecosystem live collaboratively with wildlife. It also underscores the importance of research; you learn how scientists track wildlife there, along with how the knowledge of animals locations and space use assists efforts to conserve them. The image even includes some of the Ilchokuti, or “lion guardians,” deployed by Lincoln Park Zoo partner KopeLion to help mitigate human-lion conflict in the region.

If you love this image, too, you can purchase a 300-piece puzzle version at the Gift Shop.

Chance for Change

Location: In and around Walter Family Arctic Tundra

Learn about how wild polar bear behaviors change seasonally. At this station, you can also find out how their usual habits, like bulking up for the winter, mating and caring for young — all tied to the seasons — are affected by climate change.

Wild-born polar bears are very well adapted to their ecosystems in the Arctic and rely on unique seasonal conditions to progress their life cycles. However, that makes it harder for them to be flexible, as humans are, when weather change. This color-coded station lets you use a lever to randomly switch up conditions and a volunteer can guide you in determining what kinds of challenges the bears would have to successfully deal with if the yearly cycles in the Arctic vary too much. If warm weather sticks around too long, how might a female polar bear be affected? Learn about the lives of polar bears and discover ways you can cut carbon emissions by reducing food waste — an easy way to help these marine mammals from far away.

Secrets of the Zoo

Location: In and around Regenstein Center for African Apes

Volunteers Meredith and Karma show off enrichment items that stimulate species-specific behaviors in animals at the zoo.


Here’s another favorite volunteer station, which can teach you a new way of looking at the zoo. You’ll discover how staff members enhance the lives of animals. It’s all about enrichment — something added to or changed in an individual’s environment that can stimulate their senses and encourage species-specific behaviors.

You’ll get to explore examples of different types of sensory, physical, and environmental enrichment keepers use, like boomer balls, mirrors, food, scents, and more. You can also find out about other types of enrichment, like the cognitive puzzles the apes can participate in, which is always voluntary. Once you’ve experienced this cart, you’ll start to realize that all the items you’re seeing in animal habitats—from blankets in the chimpanzee habitat to the feeders in the pygmy hippo area—are part of the zoo’s commitment to giving the animals that live here the best care possible. Because of that, this cart is enriching for humans, too!

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