One of the most familiar yet fascinating things young children can begin to explore and study is the animal kingdom. Children see all sorts of animals in their classroom lessons, in books, through media sources, and sometimes through their own lived experiences. Rarely, however, are they exposed to the wide variety of wild and domestic animals that exist outside of their own personal living community.
In the Animals Area, children are invited to participate in learning activities that focus on different types of animals, animal habitats, the foods animals eat, and the importance of caretaking of animals. This area boasts a 65 square feet table painted to resemble Earth’s landscapes. Using this table, along with over 100 wood-carved animal figures, children engage in cooperative learning and social interaction as they build animal habitats and “feed” the animals.
The warm, inviting atmosphere of this area provides just the right setting for children to investigate animals in a safe but stimulating learning environment. Whether they are dressed in the veterinarian’s lab coat or in the zookeeper’s safari vest, children will use stethoscopes, magnifying glasses, and other tactile instruments to explore the animal kingdom through self-initiated learning and dramatic role play.
The Animals Area also features live animals for children to handle and become familiar with as they learn how to treat living things. Resident guinea pig, “Sir Isaac Newton,” provides children with the opportunity to become comfortable with live animals in a way that promotes compassion and respect for all living things. For some children, this experience teaches them to gentle and considerate of all types of animals and promotes interest in the safety and well-being of other living creatures.