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HomeClassroom ResourcesCalendar Activities

July 01

The first U.S. zoo opened in Philadelphia in 1874.

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The first U.S. zoo opened in Philadelphia in 1874.

Grades 1 – 6
Calendar Activity Type Historical Figure & Event





On the morning of July 1, 1874, the first zoo in the United States, the Philadelphia Zoo, opened its doors to visitors who, for a quarter or less, could visit and view the 813 animals that lived there. Today, the Philadelphia Zoo has more than twice as many animals and four times as many visitors as it had during its first year of operation.




Much more has changed in the zoo than the number of animals and visitors. Visit the Philadelphia Zoo's History Overview to learn more about the first zoo in the United States. Then have your class compare features and aspects of the first zoo with a modern zoo, using the interactive Venn Diagram tool. Ask your students to think in particular about the differences in how animals are cared for and the habitats where they live.

Once your students have considered how zoos have changed over the past century, invite them to imagine the zoo of the future. How will animals be cared for? What will the zoo look like? Who will visit the zoo? What will be the primary mission of the zoo? In small groups, students can explore these questions and then design their own zoo of the future using drawings, posters, dioramas, or a similar display technique.



  • Zoo, from National Geographic Education

    National Geographic Educationís encyclopedia entry on zoos includes information on zoo history, types of zoos, zoo specialization, and conservation efforts. Related terms are defined in a Vocabulary tab. The website includes related reading suggestions, illustrations, and links to related National Geographic Education resources.

  • The Robot Zoo

    This site highlights the traveling Robot Zoo exhibit. This online exhibit explains how the robots work and how they relate to the real animals that they are modeled after. Students can even pet the animals online!

  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park

    If you don't have a zoo nearby, you can use this site to find pictures and information about animals and their habitats. This site also features Classroom Resources, such as free curriculum guides and information about outreach programs.


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Grades   K – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Investigating Animals: Using Nonfiction for Inquiry-based Research

Inspired by their curiosity about animals, students work together to research an animal of their choice and present the information they gather to an authentic audience.


Grades   K – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Animal Study: From Fiction to Facts

Students listen to fiction and nonfiction read-alouds and explore selected Websites to identify factual information about animals. This lesson focuses on ants, but can be adapted to any animal.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Recurring Lesson

Webcams in the Classroom: Animal Inquiry and Observation

Students observe animals using one of the many webcams broadcasting from zoos and aquariums around the United States and the world, with a focus on observation, discussion, questioning, and research.