Does your school take regular field trips to the zoo?'s Teacher Poll of the Week
Does your school take regular field trips to the zoo?

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Three quarters of teachers polled report that they do not take regular field trips to the zoo. Zoos can be a fun field trip and educational too. Younger students can learn about the animals and older students can couple this knowledge with the country the animals come from. Diets can be tied to vegetation in many cases which leads to discussions of climate. Environmental concerns can be addressed as well as protection efforts. Some of these topics can lead to political problems in the countries of origin. The ways to tie in visits to the zoo are numerous. Also students are often more receptive to a zoo visit than a trip to the museum.

If there are so many benefits to field trips to the zoo, then why are only a quarter of teachers taking their students? The most obvious reason that comes to mind is that many towns don't have access to a zoo. Smaller towns may have petting zoos where younger children can visit cows, goats and chickens, but access to a large facility housing exotic animals may be many hours away. Except for the very youngest students, spending time at a small local facility with farm animals will have very little academic benefit.

Planning a field trip to a local attraction is problematic enough considering entrance fees, days and hours of operation, planning transportation and organizing chaperones. Undertaking a day-long trip to an attraction which is several hours away involves much more planning and cannot take place during regular school hours. Potentially students may be required to leave early and come home well after school has been dismissed.

Complicating matters is the fact that there is an ongoing debate about the humaneness of zoos which can influence decisions to plan field trips. Many people worldwide are opposed to housing animals in what they believe to be inhumane enclosures for the enjoyment of people. Others believe that the knowledge gained from studying these animals is invaluable in helping preserve these species in the wild. Opinions differ but the bottom line is planning a trip to a potentially controversial attraction can be a headache.

While the pros and cons of zoos are weighed the situation of field trips to the zoo is unlikely to change. Access to facilities, planning difficulties and controversy will keep most teachers away.