Michelle Martin

Zoo day

April 25, 2018

I’ve long thought that the most interesting animals to watch in the zoo are the human visitors.

That was definitely the case when I chaperoned Teresa’s second-grade class field trip to Brookfield Zoo in the middle of April.

We got lucky by going on one of the few bright, sunny days of the month, and the kids were thrilled with their freedom. The bus dropped us off a little after 10 a.m.; the teacher told the chaperones to meet back at the entrance at 12:45 p.m., and off we went.

They walked and skipped and ran from one end of the zoo to the other. It was a new place for many of the city-dwellers, who have been going to Lincoln Park Zoo since they were born.

I was surprised by how willing everyone in my group was to enter the reptile exhibits. While some said they were scared of the snakes, or more accurately, “EWWW!”, they all stepped up to look.

The monkeys, as usual were a big hit, as were the river otters in the swamp exhibit.

The swamp exhibit itself was a definite maybe when we walked in — there was the promise of an alligator, but the 8-year-olds in my group complained about the warm, fetid air and said swamps are full of dirty water. That, at least, was quickly corrected by a zoo docent, who proceeded to talk to them about how swamps filter water, and then told them which of the animals we were looking at could be found in Illinois.

But the animals that got the most interest? The Canadian geese that patrolled the grounds, some wearing tags with ID numbers around their necks. Maybe that was because the geese were the most interested in the children. They waddled up behind us while we sat at a picnic table eating lunch, and trailed us to the garbage can in hopes of getting scraps.

None of the geese got fed, and all of the kids kept their hands to themselves, so no fingers were nipped. But when one of the kids asked why the geese were loose, we talked about how they didn’t belong to the zoo. It was more like the zoo belongs to them.

The official reason for the zoo trip in April was its proximity to Earth Day, April 22, with the goal of having students learn something about the glory of creation.

I’m not sure how much academic learning took place, at least not in my group, but between the playground, the swinging monkeys, the waddling geese, the bathing grizzly bear and the napping tiger, the kids spent a lot of time just glorying in the beauty of the day and the wonder of creation.


  • family life