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4th grade students visit Riverbanks Zoo

As part of our 4th grade science curriculum, students have recently begun studying animals. To kick off the new unit of study, students traveled to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, on November 4th. The field trip provided an opportunity to get outside the classroom and apply their learning in a real world context. By giving the students the opportunity to observe the animals in a natural environment they were able to make meaningful connections to the research completed in class. It is one thing to learn about animals in a classroom and very different to observe the animals and their adaptive behaviors in real life.
While visiting the zoo, students took notes and discussed their observations with their classmates. They discussed how the physical features of each animal improved the animal’s  chance of survival in the wild. Many students were able to share the information and facts they had researched at school. It was incredibly satisfying to watch the students get excited about being the class expert about a particular animal as they talked about the various characteristics related to the animals they had studied.
As we continued to walk through the zoo, one could see the increased confidence in the students as they began to open up and talk about their observations of the animals at the zoo. This led to an animated discussion about how the animals’ physical features evolved over time and helped them to survive in the wild. The exciting nature of the discussion encouraged students to speak up and ask questions as they debated how certain features were beneficial to the animals’ survival.
Several parents commented on how much the students have learned about the animals and their adaptations. One parent said, “This has been a great experience for the students. The discussion about the animals was quite fascinating and it was really exciting to see how they learned from each other. I hope the students will continue to have these kinds of learning opportunities.”
At the end of the day, the students left the zoo feeling tired but excited. They talked about what they saw, commented on their favorite animals, and asked if they could do another research project based on the animals they had observed while at the zoo. In conclusion, the students walked away from the field trip with a greater understanding of adaptations and how they increase survival rates. Most importantly, they developed a deeper appreciation of what animals go through to survive.





Written by: Michelle Sarno, 4th Grade Teacher
Posted: Nov 05, 2010 by Jennifer Williams

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