Hands on

In Hands-on, pupils will explore animal groups by investigating real animal hair, scales and feathers – from lions to crocodiles!  They will use a variety of descriptive words to label the textures, colours and patterns they discover, and will find out how we can use these different body coverings to put animals into three groups.  At the conclusion of the session, pupils will be challenged to put a variety of zoo animals into groups, including themselves!

Touch fantastic objects from the natural world in this Key Stage 1 session at ZSL London Zoo

Age group:  Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 (Reception & KS1, Ages 4-7)

Duration: 35-45 minutes

Capacity: 35 pupils

Learning Space: Education Centre (I2)


National Curriculum links:

KS1 Science

Lower key stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) programme of study (2014)

Working scientifically

  • observing closely, using simple equipment
  • identifying and classifying
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions

Year 1 programme of study (2014)

Animals, including humans

Pupils should be taught to:

  • identify and name a variety of common animals including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals
  • describe and compare the structure of a variety of common animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals including pets)


Intended learning outcomes:

Pupils will be able to:

  • Use appropriate words to describe how animal skin coverings look and feel
  • Identify three groups of animals (mammals, birds, reptiles) by their skin coverings

Many objects from the natural world used in this session are loaned to us by HM Revenue and Customs.

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:

  • Use this Zoo Challenge worksheet to encourage pupils to look more carefully at the animals in the Zoo: Pre-visit session info - Hands On 2013-2014 (276.9 KB)
  • Ask pupils to consider the following animals and list as many similarities and differences between them as they can:
    • Tiger and sheep
    • Snake and sheep
    • Parrot and tiger


While at the Zoo:

  • Rainforest Life (map ref. E2) is an exciting mixed exhibit which includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates all under one roof – don’t miss out the nocturnal animals in the Nightlife area down below!
  • Hairy, scaly and feathery animals at the Zoo you may wish to visit :
Animal Location (map ref.)
Gorillas Gorilla Kingdom (F4)
Tigers Tiger Territory (F5)
African mammals Into Africa (H2)
Komodo dragon next to Reptile House (G5)
Giant tortoises next to Reptile House (G5)
Snakes, lizards, tortoises etc Reptile House (G4)
Flamingos and pelicans Bird pond (C5)
Tropical birds Blackburn Pavilion (D7)
Parrots Macaw aviary (B5)

 After your visit:

  • Children pick a hairy, scaly or feathery animal and create a painting or collage, paying particular attention to the texture of the skin or hair, patterns and colours.

CREST Award Scheme

CREST Awards

CREST Star is a scheme enabling primary school children aged from 5 – 11 to solve STEM problems through practical activity.

Participating in Hands-On, a CREST Star linked activity, can help your students acheieve a British Science Association CREST award.