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.
Zoo Explorers programs are offered on most school days at 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).
Please note that Zoo Explorers cancellations made with less than 48-hours notice are subject to a 12.5% cancellation fee.
The zoo offers full scholarships, thanks to the generosity of several donors, that cover the cost of the program as well as transportation. 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 and the needs of students. You will be notified by email about the status of your application.
All fall season Zoo Explorers scholarship funds have been allocated.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Design a Habitat
Recommended Grade Level: 5-8
What goes into designing a brand-new home for an animal at the zoo? Students will explore animal care and welfare, and how those concepts were applied in the construction of the new lion habitat at the Pepper Family Wildlife Center. Students will use data to make decisions about their own lion habitat design.
Recommended Grade Level: 6–12
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.
Recommended Grade Level: 6–12
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.
Bowman C. Lingle Trust
U.S. Bank Foundation