Learn all about the animals who call the Phoenix Zoo home.
Go on a virtual field trip, make crafts, play games and exercise like some of our animals!
Virtual Field Trips
Exploring Desert Animals
Animals depend on their surroundings to get what they need, including food, water, shelter, and a favorable temperature. Animals depend on plants or other animals for food. They use their senses to find food and water, and they use their body parts to gather, catch, eat, and chew the food. Students will choose two videos that focus on different exhibits of the Arizona Trail at the Phoenix Zoo. After observing two different animals’ students will begin to understand how animals use resources to grow and survive.
Crafts & Activities
Orangutan Nest Building
“Just like humans sleep in a bed, orangutans sleep in nests every night. In the wild, orangutans use branches, sticks, and leaves to create their nests. In zoos, you will see orangutans use blankets, sticks, leaves, and hay. They will weave together branches, leaves, and sticks to create the perfect resting spot. Depending on the orangutan, they might even add a roof or leafy pillows!” – Orangutan SSP
Can you build a nest like an orangutan? (Activity provided by the Orangutan SSP)
A trophic level is a way of classifying where an animal falls on the food web in their environment. In other words, it describes what type of foods a plant or animal eats and where they fit in their environment. Today we are looking at five primary classes of consumer: producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary/apex consumers, and decomposers.
Let’s act out different behaviors that demonstrate how energy moves through the trophic levels!
Tortally Awesome Survival!
Tortoises, in particular, have a very impressive means for conserving water. Skilled diggers, they will hide underground in a burrow, away from the hot desert sun, and are most active during monsoon season, when temperatures are cooler and water is plentiful. Desert tortoises are not the only animals that use burrows to stay out of the sun and conserve water. Most animals in the desert need shade in order to survive, including but not limited to: tarantulas, kangaroo rats, burrowing owls, gophers, etc.
See what animals you can look up online. You might be surprised!
The Pollinator Dance
Honeybees are interesting because, more than any other animal, they live to pollinate flowers. One of the ways they do this is by sending scouts to find flower patches, which they report back to the colony with a special dance that tells them how to get there. Have you wondered how they do this?
Let’s find out by playing a game!
Sonoran Desert Toad Spring
The Sonoran Desert toad is found across a large portion of southern-central Arizona and portions of New Mexico. Most commonly seen after summer monsoon storms, they can be easy to spot as they are the largest of the toad varieties found in the Sonoran Desert. Just be careful to not let this hoppy amphibian get near your pets, as the toxins they emit can be seriously harmful to them. Just like frogs, toads develop from tadpoles and eventually metamorphize in to their four-legged state. The Sonoran Desert toad’s favorite place to sit is in muddy holes and puddles, so that they can blend in to hide from predators.
Let’s see if we can copy them and do the Sonoran Desert Toad Spring.
Pip Pip Cheerio!
A Baby Chick is Hatching
Ever wonder how a baby bird gets out of its egg? It has got to require some hard work for such a tiny little animal. Luckily, chicks are equipped with a handy dandy tool built into their beaks called an egg tooth. An egg tooth grows at the very tip of the beak. They are very small and sharp enough to help break through the shell of the egg. This is called pipping.
Learn what it’s like to pip through an eggshell with this fun art activity.
Kangaroo Rat Race
The kangaroo rat is a mammal common to our southwestern U.S. deserts as well as other deserts around the world. The life of a kangaroo rat is never easy, but they have many adaptations that allow them to live in the harsh environments where they are found. They get all the water they need from the seeds that they eat, hide in their cool burrows during the hot day, and to avoid predators: leap, kick up sand, and thump their feet.
For this game, we will be living the life of a kangaroo rat. Let’s see if you can hop to victory!
Game of Life (Cycles)
Every living creature will go through a life cycle as they grow from infancy to adulthood. However, some animals have different life cycles than other animals. Many animals start off as very tiny babies and must be raised by their parents before they can set off on their own, and some animals undergo extreme changes and end up looking nothing like how they were born!
In this activity we will be learning more about one such life cycle: the butterfly.
Water Conservation Relay Game
Water is one of the most important resources available on earth, and all living things on Earth need it in one form or another in order to survive. Jackrabbits only come out during the cooler hours of the day and use the blood vessels in their large, thin ears to stay cool.
Let’s play a game to see how well you can conserve water!
Cacti are able to store a lot of water! Many desert animals eat cacti in order to get the water they need when the desert is very dry. Cacti have spines to help protect them from thirsty animals. You can use different craft materials to make your very own paper cactus art!
There are so many interesting shapes to see in the desert, from mountains and canyons to animals and plants. We can make different shapes with our bodies, too! Stretch out and try to copy these desert shapes.
Arizona Sunset Silhouette
Using a coffee filter, black cardstock or construction paper, scissors, markers and glue, create your own gorgeous Arizona sunset silhouette!
Learning With All Your Senses
We can use our senses to learn about our environment. This helps us learn about the plants, animals, weather, and so much more! Each sense helps us learn different information.
Observe a Tree
Choose a tree that you would like to observe and make yourself comfortable where you can see the tree well. Using a drawing and/or detailed description, answer the following questions: Where is it located? What is the shape of the tree? Does it have any fruits, nuts, cones or flowers? What do they look like? What color are they?
Create Your Own Backyard Habitat
Attracting wildlife to your backyard is easy! Today we’ll show you how to create two simple, fun homes for backyard wildlife. These tutorials will be ideal ways for kids to show off their creativity using things that you probably already have in the house!
Sustainable Bag-Making Tutorial
Looking for ways to make your life more Earth-friendly? Got any old t-shirts in your house? We’ll show you how to turn that shirt into a reusable shopping bag! This project is no-sew; all you need is scissors and a t-shirt (or two!) This is a great way to involve kids in an earth day activity that might also help with that t-shirt drawer-purge you’ve been thinking about…
Check out these animal-related games, from races to training your brain!
Animals communicate in many ways and for many reasons.
Good communication skills help them to maintain social order, avoid conflict, and facilitate group survival. Non-verbal communication is one of the principle means of interaction for highly social animals such as hamadryas baboons. This is demonstrated by the importance of facial expressions in baboon society.
Much like human beings, hamadryas baboons are often able to let others know what they are thinking just by “making a face.” They can threaten, greet, apologize or invite others to play with a simple gesture.
Look at the faces of the baboons pictured below and then look in the mirror. What faces would you make to say the same things?
Don’t mess with me!
Challenge your brain with this photo! (Hint, it’s the Otter exhibit)
In addition to food, water and shelter; zoo animals need physical and mental challenges to keep them mentally sharp, encourage their natural behaviors and prevent them from getting bored. We call these challenges “behavioral enrichment” and every animal at the Zoo gets some sort of daily enrichment. Enrichment can be as simple as hiding an animal’s food, to placing food inside a special feeder that they have to “think through” to get the food out.
For you and me, mental health is very important for overall fitness. Participating in activities that stimulate your brain may help you lead a longer, healthier life. Exercising your brain with puzzles, books and other challenges is a good way to keep in good mental shape.
Choose three animals of your choice then split up into teams. The first player on each team is one animal, the second a different animal and so on.
On the word “go” the first player on each team acts like the animal they’ve chosen and run, hop, crawl to a given place and back. The second player on each team then goes and so on.
Examples of animals to choose from include rabbit, cheetah, snake, etc.
Put names of different animals on pieces of paper and tape them to your children’s backs.
They can then ask each other yes or no questions about what animal they are. After 10 questions, they then guess which animal they are!
Example questions include: “do I swim in the ocean?” or do I have scales?”
Sit in a circle and assign an animal to each person. Each animal has a specific action connected to it, which you can choose. Examples include giraffes extend their hands like a neck, sharks put their hand on their head like a fin, etc. The only action that must remain the same is the elephant’s, which is placing their left hand on their nose and slipping their right arm through the circle they created with their left arm.
One person will be in the chair of honor (the elephant’s seat). The elephant begins the game by performing their action followed by someone else’s.
The person immediately to the left of the elephant will be in the lowest seat, which is where the people that make mistakes will go. Everyone that is to the right of the person that makes a mistake will shift one seat to their left, and their action will change according to the seat that they are sitting in.
The goal of the game is to get the elephant out of their seat, and take that seat for yourself by knocking out all of the other people between you and the elephant.
The person that sits in the elephant chair when the game is over is declared the winner of the game.
Lend a helping hand to the birds in your area!
Version 1: Gather supplies for birds to build a nest. Fill a mesh bag (like what onions come in) with the following ingredients:
- Dried grass
- Short pieces of string/yarn
- Stuffing from old furniture or pillows
- Dryer lint
- Hair from a hair brush
Have the string/yarn stick out of the bag so the birds have easy access to it. Hang the bag in a location birds can easily access the materials.
Watch the birds collect materials for their nests!
Version 2: Gather supplies from the list below:
- Milk carton
- Dryer lint
- Pet/human hair
Have adults cut a flap about halfway down both sides of the milk carton. Wash the carton and let it dry. Fold the flaps down to create perches for the birds to land on. Make the hanger using two long pieces of string/yarn and threading it through the opening of the carton. Fill the carton with the supplies you’ve gathered and hang it in a tree in your yard to watch the birds!
Balance like a flamingo, test your strength compared to a warthog, relax like a tortoise and so much more!
Try the following stretches; arms, shoulders and upper back stretch, quadriceps stretch, and hamstring and hip stretch, and hold them for 15-30 seconds.
Vultures will spread their wings in the morning sun to warm up their feathers after a cool evening. This stretch makes their feathers more flexible and prepares them for flight. Just like vultures, we need to stretch to prepare ourselves for physical activity. One of the greatest benefits of stretching is that you’re able to increase flexibility and the range of motion in your joints, which means injury prevention. Don’t bounce when stretching; you want to ease your muscles into the stretch. Remember to breathe while you’re stretching; holding your breath may make you feel dizzy.
Flamingo Stand: Flamingos often stand on one leg. We don’t know why they do this, but some researchers think they may do it to help them stay warm. Regardless of the reason, standing on one foot takes good balance. Testing your balance is a great way to build endurance and strength in the core muscles in your stomach and back.
Easy? Try it with your eyes closed!
Sturdy like a Warthog: The warthog is a tough, sturdy animal. It is mainly a grazer and has adapted to eat short grass by kneeling on its calloused, hairy, padded knees. To do this, a warthog needs very strong legs! Like a warthog, most of you depend on your legs for many of your daily activities. Your legs take you all the different places you need to go. For that reason, it is important to build strength in your legs. Try the following strength moves: lunges and squats.
Take a few minutes to rest, relax and enjoy your time.
Giant tortoises lead lives that center on grazing, relaxing in the sun and wallowing in water puddles. Because their body temperatures change with the environment, they like to soak in the sun to warm up. At night, they keep warm by sleeping partially submerged in mud, water or brush.
Tortoises remind us that while being active is very important, getting enough rest is important too. Taking a few minute out of your day to stop all activity, close your eyes and rest can be beneficial for both your body and your mind. Sufficient sleep has been identified as an essential part of health maintenance. Insufficient sleep has been linked to impaired performance and the development of chronic diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.* The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults sleep 7 to 9 hours daily, and younger persons need even more sleep.**
* U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
** U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
How many push-ups can you do? Keep your back straight as you bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ground. Push yourself back up and repeat. Push-ups are a great way for you to develop your upper-body strength!
Like most lizards, rhinoceros iguanas sometimes do push-ups as a way to protect their territory. The push-ups help the lizard show off its strength and frighten predators from attempting to fight with it.
Try the following stretches; calf raise down, hamstring stretch and triceps stretch, and hold them for 15-30 seconds.
Gerenuks eat food from higher places, unlike gazelles and antelopes, which graze closer to the ground. By standing on their hind legs and stretching out their long necks they are able to reach the tallest bushes. Being able to stretch gives them an advantage over other animals on the savanna (except for giraffes).
Stretching benefits you too, both before and after a workout! It’s very important for you to cool down after a workout to bring your heart and breathing rate back to normal. The reverse of warming up, cooling down should gradually bring your body back to its resting state. If you don’t cool down, your blood pressure may drop too quickly, which can cause dizziness or light-headedness. The best time to stretch is after exercise because your muscles are more flexible when they are warm. This helps avoid injury the next time you work out.
Ask A Keeper
Ask a keeper a question or tell us your funniest animal joke using the form below!