Behaviour Study

In Behaviour Study, students will discover how and why we do scientific research at the Zoo, and how we apply this knowledge in our conservation work. During the session students will find out how to observe, record and interpret animal behaviours, and will practice this by viewing a live animal in the classroom, before carrying out their own behaviour study in the Zoo. The students will use interval sampling, and record the data in an ethogram, which can be taken back to school for further analysis or science projects.

Age group:  Years 10 and 11 (KS4, Ages 14–16)

Duration: 50 minutes

Capacity: 35 pupils

Learning Space: Activity Den (map ref B6)


National Curriculum and exam board syllabus links:


AQA GCSE Biology (4401)

How Science works

  • Observation as a stimulus to investigation
  • Making measurements
  • Using data to draw conclusions
  • Evaluation


OCR GCSE Biology A  (J243)

Ideas about Science

  • 1.1 Data: their importance and limitations – data are crucial to science. The search for explanations starts from data; and data are collected to test proposed explanations
  • 3.2 Developing scientific explanations – an explanation cannot simply be deduced from data, but has to be thought up creatively to account for the data


EDEXCEL GCSE Science 2SC01 & GCSE Biology 2BI01

How Science Works

Data, evidence, theories and explanations

  • 1. the collection and analysis of scientific data
  • 2. the interpretation of data, using creative thought, to provide evidence for testing ideas and developing theories

Practical and Enquiry Skills

  • 6. collecting data from primary or secondary sources, including the use of ICT sources and tools
  • 7. working accurately and safely, individually and with others, when collecting first-hand data
  • 8. evaluating methods of data collection and considering their validity and reliability as evidence

Communication skills

  • 9. recalling, analysing, interpreting, applying and questioning scientific information or ideas
  • 10. using both qualitative and quantitative approaches


AQA AS Level Biology

Unit 3 Investigative and practical skills in AS Biology

The ability to:

  • Demonstrate and describe ethical, safe and skilful practical techniques
  • Make record and communicate reliable and valid observations and measurements with appropriate precision and accuracy
  • 3.3.2 Implementing involves the ability to work methodically and safely. Demonstrating competence in the required manipulative skills and efficiency in managing time. Raw data should be methodically collected and recorded during the course of the investigation.
  • 3.4.7 Candidates should be able to explain how conservation relies on science to inform decision making


OCR AS/A2 Level Biology (H021/H421)

How Science Works

  • 5a Carry out experimental and investigative activities, including appropriate risk management, in a range of contexts.
  • 5b Analyse and interpret data to provide evidence, recognising correlations and causal relationships.
  • 5c Evaluate methodology, evidence and data, and resolve conflicting evidence.


Intended learning outcomes:


Students will be able to:

  • Gain an understanding of how scientific research can be conducted in a zoo context, and how this can contribute to wider conservation work
  • Make observations of the behaviour of a live animal in the classroom and consider the variables that may affect this behaviour
  • Conduct a behavioural study of a zoo animal by completing an ethogram, which can be taken back to school and the data analysed and interpreted.


Please be aware that though we aim to use a live animal in this session, we do not guarantee that they will be present – animals can fall ill or be unwilling to be handled and their welfare is ZSL’s first priority.


For this session:


Before your Visit

  • Choose an endangered animal and research its behaviours and lifestyle.  List behaviours your animal is born with (instinctive) and some which it has to learn.
  • Use drama as a class to copy the behaviours of your chosen animals as closely as possible - how would it interact with others? What would it do if it was in danger?


While at the Zoo:

  • During the session we observe animal behaviours and discover how zoo scientists use the same skills in their work.  You may wish to observe some zoo animals before or after the session and ask pupils to list all the behaviours they can see (e.g. sleeping, eating, communicating).  Ask them what they could learn about the animals if they did observations like this every day.
  • Use this worksheet to encourage students to record their observations scientifically: 
  • You may wish to visit the following animals which usually have interesting behaviours to watch!


Location (map ref.)

Rainforest animals (monkeys, birds, sloths, insects)

Rainforest Life (E2)


(D2) and Animal Adventure (F7)

Tropical birds

Blackburn Pavilion (D7)


After your visit:

  • Create a bar chart with the data collected in the ethogram. Compare the results to those of other groups, and discuss the differences and similarities between the behaviour of the individual animals. Were there any trends? Were there any anomalies? What affect, if any, did factors such as the weather have? Could these have been controlled for?
  • Think of a follow-up study with the same animals, to find out the answer to a specific question about the behaviour of the animals. E.g. How do they respond to people in green jumpers?