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:  EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 (EYFS & KS1, Ages 4-7)

Duration: 35-45 minutes

Capacity: 35 pupils

Learning Space: Education Centre

National Curriculum links:

Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Characteristics of Effective Learning:

Finding out and exploring

  • Showing curiosity about objects
  • Using senses to explore the world around them
  • Engaging in open-ended activity
  • Showing particular interests

Understanding the world: The world

  • Comments and asks questions about aspects of their familiar world such as the place where they live or the natural world
  • Can talk about some of the things they have observed such as plants, animals, natural and found objects
  • Shows care and concern for living things and the environment
  • Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change


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:

  • 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 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 
Gorillas Gorilla Kingdom
Tigers Tiger Territory
African mammals Into Africa 
Komodo dragon next to Reptile House 
Giant tortoises next to Reptile House 
Snakes, lizards, tortoises etc Reptile House 
Flamingos and pelicans Bird pond 
Tropical birds Blackburn Pavilion
Parrots Macaw aviary

 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.