What Do You Know About Zoos?

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SWBAT clearly communicate their initial ideas about what a zoo is, why zoos might be important, and possible pros and cons of zoo environments.

Big Idea

Students discuss what they already know about zoo environments and unearth connections to animal habitats, adaptations, and behaviors.

Engage - Independent Reflection

10 minutes

I began this lesson by asking students to work independently and silently to list what they know about zoos.  I gave them these guiding questions to assist them in getting started:

  • What do you know about zoos?
  • What are some pros (positive aspects) about zoos?
  • What are some cons (negative aspects), if any, about zoos?
  • What are the most important things you know about zoos?

Engage: Group Discussion

25 minutes


After the students have written independently for about ten minutes, I place them into random groups and have them work collaboratively to list or draw about the positive and negative aspects of zoos.  I also encourage them to write down questions about zoos.  I provide no support for the content but do encourage them to work collaboratively and listen to one another's ideas with respect.  I ask them to place special focus on the pros and cons for animals but if they digress that is, of course, acceptable.  The goal here is for both them and me to gain an awareness of their initial knowledge base about zoos.

Pros and Cons of Zoos - Sharing Our Ideas With Others

25 minutes

After students have had time to confer with their groups and come up with a mutually generated list of important details, interesting ideas, possible pros and cons, and questions, I split them into new groups.  I use my version of “Four in a Corner”.  I number the children in each group 1, 2, 3, and 4.  The fours stay in place and represent their groups ideas to the other students.  The remaining three students rotate counter-clockwise through the stations and listen to others present their ideas.  Here is one student present his groups’ ideas to his audience.



Here, the student expresses his groups concern that a zoo environment (especially in southern Arizona) may not match the natural climate needs of an animal.