This post is in partnership with the San Francisco Zoo.
Many of us have memberships to the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens because it’s such a lovely place to stroll with children of any age, and the creative playground is always a draw for kids. But did you know that the zoo also offers educational programs for children as young as newborns all the way up to 17 years old?
The zoo recently launched a brand new program called Stroller Safari for babies ages 0 to 24 months old and offers several other classes designed to appeal to toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children.
We recently asked two of our writers to try the Little Learners program, which is geared for children ages 18 months to 3.5 years old. Check out their class reviews below and find the full schedule of children’s classes at the zoo here. (They also have a summer camp!)
We are partnering with the zoo to give away a free Little Learners class (for children ages 18 months to 3.5 years)! Enter to win by tagging a friend in the comments of this Facebook post by 5:00 PM on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
Class Topic: A Peccary is not a Pig!
When I found out my three-year-old son and I had the opportunity to try out the Little Learners class at the San Francisco Zoo I was super excited! I’d always wanted to take him but had never gotten around to it. My son Lucas loves animals. We have two guinea pigs and two cats at home and he is all over them (for better or worse!), so this experience was a perfect fit for him.
I was surprised by how much the teacher could accomplish in the 90 minutes of the class. Our class took place around Valentine’s Day, so the bubbly and energetic Teacher Jen gave Lucas a valentine card with a toy cheetah when we arrived. He was so excited to get a present right away, and I could tell he felt connected to the teacher! During the first fifteen minutes, the kids had free play in the spacious learning cabin while everyone arrived and settled in. While he played with a train set, Teacher Jen checked in every few minutes. Other toy options were stuffed animals, blocks, and books.
Then came circle time, in which the kids learned about the animal of the day, a peccary. The teacher had full-color photos of peccaries eating, playing, and of peccary babies. After circle time, the peccary adventure continued with a craft. The kids sat at small tables and used different types of paintbrushes and brown paint to add fur to a peccary. Lucas had a great time painting and adding a string to his peccary so he could pull it along.
After craft time, it was time for pretend play. The kids learned that peccaries eat cacti, so Teacher Jen put out a bunch of plastic balls and foam mats and the kids pretended to move the cactus balls around with their peccary snouts. Lucas did this for a moment, and then he made a ramp for the balls. After pretend play was over, it was snack time! Lucas enjoyed the snack of raisins, pretzels, and crackers while Teacher Jen read the book Don’t Call Me Pig by Conrad J. Storad. In the story, kids learn facts about peccaries with each page ending with the instruction, “Don’t call me pig!”
After snack time, the much-anticipated animal visitor came to the Little Learners Cabin. They set up a clear gate and brought in an adorable fuzzy chinchilla. The kids were so excited to watch the little guy roll around in a box of dust. Apparently, that is how chinchillas clean themselves. The final activity was a nature walk with the class to the petting zoo where we checked out the pig (he was sleeping happily) and the other barn animals.
Overall, it was an amazing experience for Lucas. We both learned a lot about peccaries and had fun being together. It’s a parent participation class, so don’t expect to drop off and go. But if you are looking for something fun to do with your little one, sign up for the Little Learners class!
Class Topic: All About the Cassowary
This was the first time my almost three-year-old daughter tried a Little Learners class and only the second time she’s visited the zoo, so she was very excited. We were both looking forward to trying the class because we both love animals, and we read about different species and their habitats as part of our daily routine. I felt that a zoo class would be a great way to take our studies to the next level.
Teacher Jen did not disappoint. She taught us about an Australian animal called a cassowary, which is similar to an ostrich. After explaining all about cassowaries, there was a craft project related to the outback birds. She read a story to the class and then she brought out a real live blue-tongued skink (another Australian animal) for the little ones to examine up close.
Finally, we took a zoo walk outside to the Walkabout to study the zoo’s very own cassowary. Teacher Jen was extremely knowledgable about all of the zoo animals and she explained to us that cassowaries evolved from the few dinosaurs that survived the mass extinction.
We certainly had a fun and interesting day at Little Learners!