EDUCATION

Learning Resources

EDUCATION

Learn As You Go! Make Your Next Visit Educational With Observation Activities

These resources have been created for you to use while visiting John Ball Zoo. By engaging your students and/or children during their exploration of the zoo we hope they will learn more about the animals they encounter.  

The tours and scavenger hunt are structured in a way that allows the students to tour through the zoo and stop at various animals to answer questions or have chaperones share information about the animals. The observation activities are resources you can use in the classroom prior to your visit to engage students in questions or hypotheses about what they’ll observe while at the zoo. Each observation activity has a data sheet the students should complete while at the zoo. The data can then be analyzed back in the classroom and used in a variety of ways. 
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Exhibit Animals

John Ball Zoo Animal List

JBZoo Exhibit Animal List

Curious about which animals are going to be at John Ball Zoo during your visit? Here's a list! Every day there are opportunities to watch animal feedings, training sessions, and more. There are times when certain animals will be off display or an exhibit may be closed. Please contact our admissions team with questions about the availability of a specific animal at the beginning of your visit.

FIELD TRIPS

Animal Observation Field Trip Activities

These tools mimic the ethograms, or behavior studies, that biologists use to study animals both in the wild and in zoos. Assign students to specific animals and compare data back in the classroom or have groups of students observe the same animal at different times throughout the day. It’s a great way to incorporate math into your trip to the zoo! 

The following set of observation sheets were designed for teachers to use with their students when visiting the zoo. Students may visit the penguins at any time of the day with their small chaperoned groups. Data can then be taken back to class and combined to use in a variety of ways; create graphs, write short stories or observation notes about what they observed while at the exhibit, etc.

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The following data and observation sheets are meant to be used on a day trip to the Zoo. Students are asked to enter information on a diagram of the lion exhibit – recording where they see the lions in the exhibit. The data collection sheet can be used back in the classroom to compile all the student information. Students could make hypotheses about where they think the lions will be and compare to what they’ve found.

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What do the chimpanzees do all day? Students will choose a chimpanzee to observe. While observing the chimpanzee, your student should watch for the behaviors listed on their data sheet and document their observations.

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An ethogram is a catalog of all the different kinds of behavior observed in an animal. Your students will observe animal of their choice and document the behaviors that they observe.

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Your students will become junior scientists for a day! This activity encourages them to record the behaviors displayed by the animal that they choose to observe, and any factors that could influence these behaviors such as feeding time and weather.

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VIRTUAL HABITAT TOURS

Explore Animal Habitats From Anywhere!

Explore John Ball Zoo animal habitats from anywhere! Students are able to direct where they go and learn more with information tabs and embedded videos that include training sessions and enrichment delivery along with conservation information. Utilize the animal observation activities above, download the journal prompts below the habitat links, or create your own journal prompts for students. Tours were created with Virtual Tour Guys.

ENGINEERING

Exhibit Design Activities

These observation and evaluation tools are a great addition to the Exhibit Design class we offer. Your students will evaluate a habitat and conduct a usage study. Take their findings back to your classroom to digest the data, then use it to re-create a new habitat!

Designing exhibits requires tremendous work and consideration for the various groups of people and animals involved in the exhibit’s use. Over time, views have shifted to allow for better environmental conditions for animals, more immersive exhibits for visitors, and increased functionality for zookeepers. Students will be looking into ways zoo exhibits address the needs of all three groups and evaluate the quality of the designs.

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Whether an exhibit design is looking to redesign an animal exhibit at the zoo or a zookeeper is trying to determine where to place an enrichment for an animal, it is helpful to understand how the exhibit is currently used. Observing how an animal uses the space may give hints of what features to include in a new design such as vines, rocks, or a pool. Understanding where the animal likes to spend their time might provide ideas of where to hang an enrichment or whether or not an area of the space is avoided by an animal. Are they often found in the shade? In the sun? At the highest point in the exhibit? In addition to research, zoo staff can use this information to make sure exhibit designers include features that are enjoyed by the animal, to ensure that visitors can see them, or make decisions on how to better care for the animal.

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Great Lakes Rare Turtles

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Turtles are in trouble around the world and locally. The Great Lakes Rare Turtle Program addresses on threats that are existential and widespread for Blanding’s, Spotted, Wood, and Box Turtles. The John Ball Zoo is working wth partners to study head starting as a conservation tool, protecting nesting habitat for Wood Turtles from raccoons, and researching the distribution and status of Spotted Turtles in Southwest Michigan. The zoo partners with local community scientists to indentify road crossings that pose a threat to Blanding’s and other species of turtles.

Partners

Poweshiek Skipperling

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Facts
Habitat

Grassland, Wetlands (inland)

Threat Range

Critically Endangered

Region

Extant (resident) - Canada (Manitoba); United States (Wisconsin, Michigan), Possibly Extinct - United States (South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa), Extinct - United States (Indiana, Illinois)

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Mitchell's Satyr

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The prairie fens of southern Michigan are a stronghold for the Endangered Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly. We are working with Michigan State University, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and the Kalamazoo Nature Center to develp to propagate this rare butterfly. Offspring reared in the program may be used to supplement wild Mitchell’s Satyr populations.

Partners

Freshwater Mussels

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Freshwater Mussels are one of the most fastenating groups of animals. Unfortunately they are also one of the most imperiled groups on animals with more than 70% of North American species listed as Threatened or Endangered. Our own Grand River is home to an impressive 32 different species, 19 of which are listed. The John Ball Zoo is working with scientists at Grand Valley State University to evaluate Grand River Mussel populations. During the 2023 field season, the team documented over 1,000 individuals from 27 different species. This includes the Endangered Snuffbox Mussel.

Partners

Habitat Hero

Community Science
About

The Habitat Hero program is focused on creating better urban pollinator habitat by giving away native plants to west Michigan community members. By giving away native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, we are inviting community members to provide crucial nectar sources for pollinators as well as become more involved in pollinator conservation in their own yards and gardens.

Partners

Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

Community Science
About

American Kestrels are one of North America’s most abundant raptors, but their populations have been steadily declining since the mid 1960’s. This year we have begun participating in the American Kestrel Partnership, run by the Peregrine Fund, to monitor local kestrel nest boxes and help better understand Kestrel population trends and biology.

Partners

Grand River Sucker Monitoring

Community Science
About

Suckers are a very important, and often overlooked, group of migratory fish that inhabit the Grand River. Every spring they migrate upriver from Lake Michigan to spawn in tributaries of the Grand River. We are joining a project started by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to determine how changes in temperature and flow of the streams impact the spawning behavior of the suckers.

Partners

Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

Community Science
About

One of the major threats to turtle populations is mortality associated with roads and vehicles. We have a team of trained volunteers who survey predetermined road crossing sites and report the number of turtles they find at these locations. We plan to use the data to assist in conservation decision-making regarding roads and turtles in west Michigan.

Partners

Michigan Butterfly Network

Community Science
About

As part of our pollinator conservation work, we want to understand how native butterfly populations are changing over time. By training community members to use the Michigan Butterfly Network monitoring protocol, we are offering passionate people the opportunity to help contribute to our understanding of butterfly populations in west Michigan.

Partners

Bat Surveys

Community Science
About

West Michigan is home to several species of rare and threatened species of bats. This summer we will have a group of volunteers collecting bat occurrence data by driving predetermined routes and using special recorders and software to identify bat species. The data will be submitted to the North American Bat Monitoring Project as part of their ongoing analysis of bat abundance and occupancy across North America.

Partners

Massasauga Rattlesnake

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The Massasauga is Michigan’s only venomous snake and plays an important role in the ecosystem. Unfortunately, these snakes are declining in numbers and are listed as Threatened. The John Ball Zoo helps to educate the public on the plight of the Massasauga and helps conservation biologists study them in the field. Currently, we are assisting Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Grand Valley State University, and Sarett Nature Center develop new technologies to monitor this secretive snake species.

Partners

City Nature Challenge

Community Science
About

The City Nature Challenge is one of the world’s largest annual community science events. Started by iNaturalist in 2016 as a friendly competition between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, this bioblitz has grown into a global phenomenon with over 500 cities participating. Taking place over the last weekend in April each year, the City Nature Challenge is all about getting outside and documenting the biodiversity in and around our communities while building and strengthening relationships with other people who are passionate about conserving local species. The West Michigan City Nature Challenge is Michigan’s only City Nature Challenge event, and encompasses Allegan, Barry, Kent and Ottawa Counties. We are excited to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and many other local organizations to engage our communities in four days of exploring our biodiverse outdoor spaces.

Partners

Michigan Area

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Freshwater Mussels

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Habitat Hero

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Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

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Grand River Sucker Monitoring

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Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

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Michigan Butterfly Network

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Bat Surveys

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Massasauga Rattlesnake

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City Nature Challenge

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Get Involved!