Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.


Detroit Zoological Society — a leader in animal welfare, environmental sustainability, wildlife conservation and humane education — operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.

Education staff members help teachers plan a visit that enhances the classroom curriculum, sparks students’ imaginations and helps them develop a love of animals and an appreciation of nature.

The zoo is located in Royal Oak, Michigan, a Detroit suburb.

The nature center is at Belle Isle State Park, an island in the Detroit River.

Claire Lannoye-Hall, curator of education for the society, said school groups visiting the Detroit Zoo or Belle Isle Nature Center as part of a Learning Lab experience will participate in an immersive, hands-on program that brings classroom learning to life.

Learning Labs focus on building science process skills and meeting state-mandated curriculum standards while leveraging the unique resources the society has to offer, such as access to observing animals throughout the zoo’s 125-acre campus or within the wetlands and meadows of Belle Isle.

Credit: Detroit Zoological Society

“Students love seeing the animals,” Lannoye-Hall said. “We design our programs to ensure students are spending as much time as possible near the habitats and animals they are learning about. We share stories about the individual animals and provide opportunities for students to learn about the critical conservation work of the Detroit Zoological Society at the local, regional and international level.”

Many of the programs for upper elementary, middle and high school students engage them in the zoo’s conservation work by modeling components. Hands-on activities mimic what the staff does behind the scenes and in the field.

Zoo educators hope students leave with a new or renewed sense of respect and reverence for wildlife and wild places.

“As students grow, their experiences shape who they become as adults, developing their values and attitudes, and framing how they associate with the natural world,” she said. “Our goal is to empower youth to become informed citizens who respect and protect the environment.” Each summer, the education department facilitates a teacher workshop focused on inquiry-based learning and the Next Generation Science Standards, supporting teachers as they refine and enhance their science curriculum.

For more information call 248-541-5717 or go to detroitzoo.org.

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David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.