Podcast Season 2, Episode 24: Motivational Outings: Zoo

Motivation fascinates me and is something I’m constantly researching, contemplating, and re-educating myself about.  The funny thing is, what I’ve always known to be true, is what clearly is.  And yet, it’s not what society teaches us.  We’re taught to use “the carrot and the stick” when finding intrinsic motivation is far superior to any extrinsic motivator. 


This week, I want to offer some inspiration in one way to inspire and motivate your children academically.  And that is with the use of outings, specifically zoos.


A trip to the zoo can be incredibly motivating and educational without any extra effort or considerations.  However, it can also be tailored to be especially motivating to your child with just a little reflection and consideration before you go.



Be sure to take time away from the frenzy of “Look at this! Look at that! Look over here! Look over there!” to have some deep discussions with your kid.  It will tend to make things go slower, and that might allow everyone to relax and enjoy themselves more.  Or, if you all just have to see everything, have the discussions between exhibits.


Some discussions might be:

  • Why an animal is doing something (Why is the camel rolling in the mud?)

  • How the habitat is designed

  • How the zoo chose where to put animals

  • What the animals need

  • The purpose of zoos

  • Ethical considerations around zoos



All that discussion can definitely be a jumping off point for some writing!  


Types of writing that may be generated during or after a zoo visit:

  • Journal

  • Log

  • Letters

  • Research paper

  • Persuasive writing

  • Creative writing


Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger Hunts might be linked to math or a writing or discussion topic, or might just be purely for fun.


Some examples of Scavenger hunts:

  • How many "hoofed" animals

  • Where are all the restrooms/ water fountains?

  • Which animals have bodies of water?

  • Specific animals/ items at the zoo



This is a huge topic and it varies widely by math ability and what your child is working on learning or practicing, as well as what your child is interested in and motivated toward.


Some ideas:

  • Counting animals, exhibits, restrooms, etc.

  • Adding and subtracting any of the above (“There are 5 gazelles over here and 7 over there, so altogether that is ____”; “There are 12 birds in this aviary, with 5 herons, so that must mean there are how many ducks?”)

  • Fractions (the sign says there are 9 giraffes, but we only see 5, so we’ve found 5/9 of the giraffes!)

  • Math projects (questions that take extra research and time to carefully calculate and figure out- possibly over lunch, or later at home):

    • how much does it cost to feed all of the animals?

    • how much space does each elephant need?



More than anything, I’d like you to be inspired to stay open-minded when it comes to how an outing might be motivational for your child.  Allow the discussions to go deep and wander.  Do not force anything (it almost never pays off), but encourage!  Always remember to model these same skills/ motivations/ activities yourself!  


Let me know what inspires your kiddo and what you would add to this list!



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