Preparing for a visit
Although much of this won't surprise you we would like to share our ideas about how to make the most of a visit. From experience and reviewing research into learning, we find the following factors are important.
- The visit should be good fun for everyone (adults and children).
Feeling miserable, nervous or stressed does not help learning, whether it is the children or the adults who feel that way. We know that leading a trip can be a very stressful experience, so we aim to help you prepare for the visit as well as enjoy the day itself.
- The visit should not be isolated from school work.
Studies have suggested that when we learn we compare new ideas and experiences with previous ones in order to reach an understanding. Help your learners to make connections between their learning by making your zoo visit the middle of three stages.
Everyone is more likely to learn and retain learning if they have already thought about the concepts that they will be engaged with here. There are materials here to help you.
It is just as important to follow up the visit when you get back to school.
- Orientation in advance is important.
Novelty of location and resources can be a very motivating factor of visits, but in a totally unfamiliar setting people spend a lot of time familiarising themselves and this can lead to anxiety and lost opportunities, especially in younger learners.
The more you can involve students in planning your visit and their learning here the better. Use these materials to help you.
- There should be a purpose for the visit.
- The visit should be structured around this purpose.
This should be clear to everyone and discussed in advance - we recommend an enquiry into something which relates to your work at school. It is a good idea to involve the students in choosing the theme and framing the main questions.
You can find some suggestions and activities for use in the zoo here.
- There should be collaboration on meaningful study.
Spread over six hundred acres and with more than two hundred different species of animal there's something to interest everyone at Whipsnade Zoo. Students must be supervised by a member of school staff or other adult at all times, but we recommend splitting the class into smaller groups in order to allow individual interests to be followed. This is a good way of enabling the class as a whole to cover more of the zoo: groups can pool what they've found out when you get back to school.
- Pupils should use their learning to prepare a presentation for an audience.
This gives an authentic purpose to their research and exercises their understanding as well as literacy and presentation skills. It might be a written piece, a recording or a live presentation.
- The zoo must support teachers and other adults accompanying the class.
We know you don't have as much time as you would like to prepare for a visit, so we will provide you with some resources to make things easier: background information, maps, images, information on resources available at the zoo and details of facilities.