Beat back summer brain drain at these Chicago hot spots


Take a walk on the wild side

An African safari isn't in the cards for this summer, but luckily we have two world-class zoos filled with animals from around the world. Instead of just dragging kids from ape house to reptile house to the way-too-expensive gift shop, try taking shorter trips focused on a single animal. Kids can study animal behavior or use field guides to identify the animals in a specific exhibit.

"This might be a great activity for parents and kids this summer to learn about the science of animal behavior and then try out some of the things they learned when they visit the zoo," says Leah Melber, the Lincoln Park Zoo's director of student and teacher programs.

  • Take our interactive Lincoln Park Zoo for Little Feet tour
  • Check out zoos' online educational guides (Brookfield's is here and Lincoln Park's is here). Lincoln Park Zoo has "Zoo Tracks" on a number of different themes. Each guide highlights five species of animals living in various locations around the zoo. Pull up fact sheets about different animals on the website, then visit the zoo. Zoo Tracks offer questions to consider when you see the animal.
  • Or, print out the "Species Safari" field guides that focus on either the Regenstein African Journey or the Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House. To gear up for the visit, parents and kids can research the animals they'll be seeking out and learn about them from the fact sheets on the website, Melber says.
  • For older kids, visit Ethograms are a list of possible behaviors an animal might exhibit, and researchers use this list when conducting studies, Melber says. Kids can print out ethogram data sheets for different species, not only those at the zoo but ones found at home such as squirrels, cats and dogs.

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