Why learning about animals is crucial for the primary child with ZooLab’s Sarah Laird

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10th June 2022

Why learning about animals is crucial for the primary child with ZooLab’s Sarah Laird

Many primary children naturally have a keen interest in animals; for me, it started with monkeys and dolphins. I chose them for school projects, read all about them in my spare time and they even briefly influenced my career choice (monkey poo was a big no-no to 8-year-old Sarah). As I got older, my interest grew; almost everything about the natural world fascinated me and still does today!

Why learning about animals is crucial for the primary child with ZooLab’s Sarah Laird

At ZooLab, we see first-hand the benefits that experiencing and learning about animals bring to the development of primary children in the classroom and home setting. Here are a few of the advantages that our team has witnessed.

Science

There is a reason why animals are a large part of the national curriculum for science. Learning about other species helps us understand more about ourselves as humans and the world we live in. It teaches us how we are similar and different from our animal cohorts; our body structure might be different, but we have the same basic needs for survival. They help us to learn where we have come from and how we as a species have evolved and survived.

We find that animal encounters help provide a memorable experience, particularly when learning about science. Animals help pupils get close to many curricular topics, providing a great learning hook to discover more. It stimulates pupil curiosity and encourages questions while providing a foundation for future knowledge.

Global learning 

Did you know that we share the Earth with an estimated 5.3 million – 1 trillion different species (Latty and Lee, 2019)? Our planet is so diverse that it is impossible to give an exact amount. Who knows what is left to be discovered!

It is that endless possibility that keeps us fascinated! If your pupils are anything like us, they will love uncovering the diversity of life on our planet, from the depths of the rainforests to the unforgiving polar regions. Learning about animal habitats is a great opening for pupils to explore different countries and continents.

Environmental impacts 

The children of today are the conservationists of tomorrow. Primary school pupils are more environmentally conscious and curious about climate change than we ever were growing up.

While teaching younger children about such a complex issue can seem daunting, a fantastic first step is to help instil an interest in nature and wildlife. Experiencing the great outdoors through bug hunts, nature walks, pond dipping or creating and monitoring a nature garden in the school grounds can help foster an early appreciation of protecting natural habitats (Clinton Foundation, 2015).

Exposing children to the environment and teaching them about animals that live there helps children understand the importance of maintaining ecosystems to ensure that habitats have everything their inhabitants need to survive. Animals help us explore sustainability and what we can do to help reduce the effects of climate change. It encourages pupils to care about the bigger picture and can inspire behaviour change and citizenship.

Communication

Interaction with animals helps children develop interpersonal skills, encourage adherence to safety protocols and improve social conduct, especially as animals directly respond to behaviour (Poleshuck, 1997). We find that animals within the classroom can facilitate discussion between children and teachers, improve self-confidence and language skills, and make for a fantastic writing exercise.

Having an animal to interact with can help children struggling with their schoolwork or home life, including children on the autistic spectrum. Animals increase the number of positive social interactions (Grigore and Bazgan, 2017). We often hear comments from teachers that they have never seen pupils as engaged, calm or gentle as when communicating with animals, particularly in SEN settings.

Animals help us become better humans

Learning and interacting with animals from a young age helps us exhibit a range of positive traits, including empathy, respect, responsibility and stewardship.

Daly and Morton (2006 and 2009) found that pupils with strong attachments to their pets measure higher in empathy and social skills. This could largely be attributed to how animals are non-judgemental; they allow children to practice relationships and respond to our emotions (Sack, 2014). Children learn to be patient and care for the needs of their companion while developing key skills that will help them throughout their lives.

Who are ZooLab?

ZooLab are the UK’s #1 for ethical animal encounters! We amaze, educate and inspire through our ethical and engaging animal encounters. Our ZooLab presenters and animal teams work closely with early years, schools, businesses and the care sector to achieve learning and wellbeing outcomes through unique animal workshops.

ZooLab and Cornerstones Education

We love what ZooLab have to offer, from minibeasts to giant snakes. Their animal encounters are perfect for our project’s memorable experiences, such as Creep, Crawl and Wriggle, Beast Creator and Predator! And the best part is, they’re national so available to you, wherever you are.

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