Create Your Own Animal Study



A great way to begin your study is to make a list of animals you want to learn about, then brainstorm some ways you can learn about the ones you are most interested in. 

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to learn about animals is to get information from the library, used bookstore, or on line. Look for videos that feature or include the animals you are interested in too. If you have Netflix, Amazon, or another streaming service, search for your interests there as well. Our family LOVES animals and we've studied quite a few of them. You'll find our animal resource pages listed here on this blog, they include links to other sites and videos. Some have game ideas, projects, and/or experiments.

Here are some great field trip ideas!

Books, videos, and websites are excellent learning tools, especially when you can't learn about animals first hand, but learning via experience and observation is even more awesome. Here are a few of the ways we've learned about animals first hand. Don't forget to bring your writing journal, sketch book, paints, or camera. Oh and maybe an animal guidebook too!
  • Go outside. Your own yard or neighborhood may have a variety of animals you can watch on a daily basis. Consider bringing some to you by putting up a bird feeder. If you dig in the dirt, you may find bugs, worms, moles, and other interesting creatures. Take some of those worms fishing with you!
  • Start a compost bin.Turn your food scraps into a bug experiment.
  • Go for a hike. If you have a park, preserve, or a wooded area near you, check it out to see who's there. You may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Visit a wildlife preserve. Do a quick search on line or talk to other people who may know of a wildlife preserve in your area.
  • Visit a pet store. Make arrangements with a pet store to get a tour. You can do this with a group or a few families if they won't allow a private tour. Ask questions.
  • Talk to a pet owner. Make arrangements to visit someone who owns or cares for an animal you are interested in learning about.
  • Go to a zoo. There are all kinds of zoos these days! Check and see if there is a specific zoo or center that features the animal you are most interested in learning about. Get a zoo membership so you can visit as often as you like and to stay informed about the special programs they offer. Don't forget petting zoos too! You'll get to touch the animals while you're there.
  • Visit an aquarium. If you are into sea creatures/life, then you'll want to visit an aquarium. If you have a zoo membership, some aquariums will allow you in for free or offer you a discount to visit them.
  • Visit an estuary. If you are near or can get to the wetlands around you, you'll be able to check out all the different types of animals while you are there.
  • Go to the beach or inter-coastal areas. A less expensive way to see local sea life is to visit the areas around the ocean. You'll be able to collect shells, observe various birds, crabs, sand fleas, and other creatures while you're there. You may even see a dolphin surfing in the waves!
  • Visit an animal sanctuary. Check your local listings for people who run/care for a sanctuary. Some places allow visitors in for a small donation - money or food for the animals.
  • Visit an animal shelter. Dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.. love to get pet and played with. Check with your shelter before you go to see if they allow this and what's required if they do.
  • Go to a science center. Many science centers will have a small area with live animals and programs related to them.
  • Arrange for an animal related program. Most places that feature animals will have a tour or some kind of program you can arrange to attend. Find out if you need a group or can join a scheduled tour.
  • Check out a local pond, lake, or another body of water. Observe the animal life all around you. Visit during different times of the year to see who the regulars are and who braves the cold weather.
  • Walk through a public garden. If you have the chance, plan a trip to a public garden and you'll get to see a variety of insects busily pollinating the flowers and foliage.
  • Plan a trip to Sea World, Busch Gardens, or Animal Kingdom. These places make great family vacation spots!
If you are really interested in animals and want to get more involved, here are some things you can do...
  • Volunteer. Most places need all the volunteers they can get. Many require kids to be a certain again, or require a parent to accompany minors. Some of the places to inquire at: Zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, shelters, animal clinics/vet offices, science centers, specialty animal facilities (ex: reptile house), etc..
  • Become a docent/volunteer for an animal related program. If you really know your stuff, some places will allow teens to docent or help with a traveling petting zoo.
  • Get a pet. One of the best ways to learn is to experience it for yourself long term. Research all you can before you take the plunge.
  • Join an animal rescue project. You can join something with local meetings, or that sponsors theme related festivals and awareness programs such as Turtles, whales, sharks, manatees, water preservation, etc.. Check out a local Audubon society too.
  • Look for programs. Keep your eyes and ears open for program opportunities that feature animals in your community. Libraries sometimes offer programs that feature animals - ask them if they have anything schedule or make a suggestion.
Many zoos offer courses and classes, they won't be free, but it can make a great gift idea or a budget goal.

Honestly, this short list only scratches the surface of some of the awesome ways you can learn about the animal kingdom first hand. 
Please help make this list longer by leaving some suggestions in comments.

If you would like more tips for designing one of a kind studies, please read these posts:

Design Your Own One-of-a-Kind Study

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