A ‘wild’ type of classroom

The third- and fourth-grade students from Hendricks Public School recently took advantage of an educational opportunity by taking a field trip to the Minnesota Zoo.

A total of 11 students were part of the experience, along with Hendricks teachers Bethann Murphy and Sharon Evert.

“The trip was for our science class,” Murphy said. “We had been studying animal ecosystems, types of consumers and producers and vertebrate and invertebrate animals. This was a great experience for the students to see firsthand the animals in their environment.”

Those 11 students seemingly took every opportunity available to learn while at the zoo.

“It was really awesome because we all got to be together,” third-grader Ellie Olsen said. “I liked that we were able to observe the animals and write interesting facts about them.”

Celebrating 35 years, the Minnesota Zoo currently cares for more than 500 different species of animals. Mammals include bison, bears, lemurs, monkeys, otters, pronghorn, puma, takin tamandua, tapir, tigers, tree kangaroo and wolverines.

“The zoo was very interesting, exciting and cool because there were so many animals,” third-grader Braxton Johnson said. “My favorite were the sharks, which is a vertebrate.”

Along with a number of sharks, the Minnesota Zoo is also home to other fish, like the sea horse, sea dragon and stingray.

“I learned that giraffes have 20-inch tongues,” fourth-grader Alex Pozzi said. “I also learned that penguins can hold their breath for 20 minutes. I liked the sharks, stingrays, fish and turtles. They are really cool.”

Along with the very popular penguins, other zoo birds included the macaw, parrot, pileated woodpecker, toucan and vulture.

“My favorite part of the zoo was looking at the penguins because they would follow our fingers,” third-grader Heidi Nicola said. “We had studied vertebrates in science, and a penguin is one of them.”

Hendricks fourth-grader Caden Jordahl also enjoyed learning about and observing the penguins during the field trip.

“I had a great time at the Minnesota Zoo,” he said. “I learned that penguins can hold their breath for 20 minutes and can live 15 to 20 years. I liked watching them.”

In addition to mammals, birds and fish, there were also amphibians and reptiles, such as the crocodile and komodo monitor at the Minnesota Zoo.

“I learned a lot of things about tons of animals,” fourth-grader Connor Lingrel said. “It was a lot of fun. I think the coolest animals were the monkeys, fish, sharks, otters and leopard. I saw many different types of consumers that we are learning about in science class.”

The Minnesota Zoo also features a World of Birds show, a traveling ZooMobile and other educational displays for children and adults to learn from and enjoy.

“The dinosaur exhibit was awesome because we were able to get up really close to observe them,” third-grader Cason Jordahl said. “The dinosaurs squirted water at us and made noises. It rocked!”

Along with watching the giraffes eat leaves, fourth-grader Alex Kanz also enjoyed the dinosaurs.

“I saw that the T-Rex dinosaur only eats meat, so it is a carnivore,” Kanz said. “I learned about what types of consumers some of the other dinosaurs were too.”

After seeing how the zoo experience enhanced student learning in collaboration with the curriculum, Murphy said she and Evert are planning to take the students on additional field trips once a month.

“We loved to see the students’ enthusiasm when they discovered a new animal or remembered reading about one in class,” she said. “We believe field trips can connect schoolwork with the world, making it tangible and memorable. The field trip stimulated questions and ideas from the students when we gathered as a group.”

In the spring, the Hendricks students are expected to tour the Science Museum of Minnesota and Sea Life.