Zoo Explorers

Calendar Icon Most School Days
Clock Icon 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 1 p.m.
Scholarships Available!
Clock Icon
$100 per class
Age Icon Grades PreK–8
Children write down animal observations


Zoo Explorers is a facilitated, 55-minute, on-grounds program for school groups. Each program focuses on inquiry-based animal investigations aligned to zoo standards and inspired by real zoo science. During explorations, students become zoo scientists, observing animals in their habitat and using specialized tools to learn about what makes animals thrive, both in zoos and in the wild. The experience also includes hands-on investigation of specimens and objects.

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

More Information


Zoo Explorers programs are offered on most school days at 9:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 1 p.m. Each time slot is limited to 20 students for prekindergarten groups and 35 students for grades K–8. If your group has more students than the stated maximum, please reserve more than one time slot.

Gift Cards for Zoo Programs

Share the love of wildlife by purchasing a gift card for select Lincoln Park Zoo programs! Purchase one for your child’s class or the animal-lover in your life. Gift cards are valid for virtual and in-person camps (prek–8), Malott Family Penguin Encounters (ages 6 and older), Monthly Action Plan (family program), Zoo Investigations (preK–5), and Zoo Explorers (preK–8).

Gift cards are available for $25 , $50 , $75 , and $100.


Please note that Zoo Explorers cancellations made with less than 48-hours notice are subject to a 12.5% cancellation fee.


All Zoo Explorers scholarships for the 2021-2022 school year have been awarded. Special thanks to the Quest Foundation for its financial support of this program.


The recommended grade level for each program is listed below. However, if you think a different program may be better suited to your students, you can consult with staff about your options. High school field trips can also be accommodated upon request. Contact info is shared toward the bottom of this page.


Animal Identification

Recommended Grade Level: PreK
Can you find a bird? What about a mammal? In this program, little ones are encouraged to focus on the body coverings of animals to identify different animal groups. Using critical thinking and motor skills, students will identify a variety of animal groups as they hold and flip through specialized early childhood field guides!

Animal Observations

Recommended Grade Level: Kindergarten
From flying and climbing to eating and resting, animals exhibit many different behaviors. By observing the animals at the zoo, students will identify many of these behaviors and learn why they’re necessary for survival.

Animal Classification

Recommended Grade Level: 1
Furry or scaly, feathered or smooth—there are plenty of animal coverings to explore! Students will learn how scientists classify animals based on how they look and live. After observing similarities and differences between species at the zoo, students will classify many animals themselves.

Animal Habitats

Recommended Grade Level: 2
There’s no place like home, whether that’s in the water or up in a tree. Students will discover that there are many types of habitats and that each habitat is home to different types of animals. As students explore the zoo, they’ll learn what habitats have in common—and how they differ.

Animal Adaptations

Recommended Grade Level: 3
Why do polar bears have thick fur? Why do giraffes have long necks? By observing animals at the zoo, students will learn why species adapt based on the environment and how their physical characteristics give them a survival advantage.

Structures and Senses

Recommended Grade Level: 4
Horns, fur, and tails, oh my! Animals use their external structures and senses to survive. As students explore the zoo, they will learn why these characteristics provide a survival advantage by recording discoveries and drawing conclusions.

Ecosystem Interactions

Recommended Grade Level: 5
Ecosystems rely on a healthy balance of producers and consumers. As students explore the zoo, they will identify animal diets, record data, and draw conclusions about what they saw.

Animal Behavior

Recommended Grade Level: 6–8
Scientists study and compare animal behaviors to provide high-quality care at the zoo and 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.

Urban Biodiversity

Recommended Grade Level: 6–8
Black-crowned night herons, gray squirrels, and American bullfrogs—these are just some of the urban wildlife species living in Chicago. In this program, students will use an interactive field guide to explore Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk identify local species, and learn how biodiversity studies helps scientists understand the urban environment.

Program Partners

Bowman C. Lingle Trust
Quest Foundation
U.S. Bank Foundation