This month’s Zooworks winners have made some larger-than-life drawings of some tiny animals: insects! Each of these drawings shows a huge amount of talent—which one is your favorite?
Now that school’s starting, what’s your kids’ favorite thing to find in their lunch bag? Sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, chips—there’s a lot to choose from! But for pandas, there’s pretty much only one thing on the menu: bamboo! The round faces that we all love are due to pandas’ strong jaw muscles for chewing tough bamboo stalks. This fast-growing grass is crucial to pandas’ lifestyles. Since it’s not very rich in nutrients, eating becomes pandas’ full-time job so that they stay healthy.
Pandas’ dependence upon bamboo has put them at risk— the bamboo forests where they live provide almost their entire diet, and those forests are being destroyed by humans. Losing their food and homes has led to pandas becoming endangered. And while the bamboo forests of China are probably far from your home, the threat of endangerment is present for species that live near you too. Can you and your family identify things that you can do to help the environment and protect animals near you?
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Summer might be winding down, but there’s still some warm weather left for your kids to go outside and explore some of the animals right in your backyard: insects! The Brookfield Zoo has lots of fun activities for budding entomologists (scientists who study insects) of all ages. You can learn how to make a pillbug habitat, learn the difference between butterflies and moths, and even build a butterfly feeder. There are also virtual games, like Build a Bug, which allows kids to design their own insect, choosing different features for qualities like speed and strength, and then guide their bug through a virtual world and answer insect trivia questions along the way.
You can also learn all kinds of great insect facts on the Brookfield Zoo’s website. For instance, you can learn about how butterflies taste with their feet, which helps them identify the plants that they land on and determine which plants to eat and where to lay their eggs. Meanwhile, ants can lift up to fifty times their own weight with their mandibles (part of their mouths). Imagine if you could taste with your feet or hold up a car with your jaw!
You can probably name lots of mammals. Dogs, cat, elephants, whales, humans—the list goes on and on. There are around 5,000 mammal species in the world—but that’s nothing compared to the million species of insects.
If you’re not a fan of insects, that fact might make your skin crawl, but don’t be so quick to judge—we need insects to help produce our food and keep the world beautiful. Insects like bees pollinate flowering plants, and without them, there would be no fruit and few flowers and vegetables. Insects are also an important part of the food chain. They eat the remains of dead plants and animals that would otherwise just stay on the ground, and they in turn are eaten by birds and many other animals. If they disappeared, all living creatures would be in trouble.
Insects aren’t just important, but also surprising and interesting. For instance, while many insects eat leaves and nectar from flowers, some giant water bugs use their powerful legs to catch fish twice their size! The next time you’re outside, see if you can find any insects. What surprises you about them?
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
This month, our Zooworks winners took what they learned from reading Zoobooks Zebras and wrote their own poems! Each of these pieces shows lots of creativity and talent—which one is your favorite?
One way that kids learn is through comparisons. When you read the latest issue of Zootles with them, see if you can spot any ways that humans are similar to—or different from—the butterflies featured in the book. The words and pictures in Zootles can be a good starting off point—compare the number of legs butterflies and humans have, the different kinds of eyes, the different ways we get around, you name it!
You might bring up the ways that butterflies’ families are different from human families, too. Instead of having just a few kids like humans do, butterflies lay up to 500 eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars have to fend for themselves and find their own food. They first eat their own eggshells, and then move on to find leaves to munch. Another big difference between caterpillars and human kids? Newly hatched caterpillars become adult butterflies in a matter of weeks—we’re glad our kids don’t grow up quite so fast!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Here’s a riddle—when is a zebra not really a zebra? When it’s Z.E.B.R.A. at the Dickerson Park Zoo! Z.E.B.R.A. (Zoo Education Broadens the Realization of Animals) is a program that lets kids get up close and personal with some of their favorite zoo animals. No matter what your child’s interests, there’s sure to be an activity that sounds exciting. They can meet zookeepers (and even help them out with their work), do crafts, and of course, meet some amazing animals! The program also offers different classes and activities for kids of different ages, from toddlers to tweens.
But even if you don’t get a chance to visit Dickerson Park Zoo (it’s in Missouri), there’s still lots of fun to be had on their website! For example, their Zoo Gallery has great photos of some of their amazing animals. You can see zebras as in the current issue of Zoobooks, alligators and frogs from Zoobies, and much more. Take a look—they might just feature your favorite animal!
Zebras, like their horse relatives, are great runners—even hour-old baby zebras can run fast enough to keep up with their herd. When they gallop, zebras reach speeds of 35 miles an hour or more. Their long legs help them cover a lot of ground with each stride, and their bones are lightweight. But even though their legs are long and thin, they’re very strong. A zebra’s leg is strong enough to support the animal’s full body weight when galloping—up to 950 pounds.
We humans use our toes to help us grip when we walk and run, but zebras only have one toe per foot. Their early ancestors had three toes per foot, but modern zebras only have one, which is surrounded by a hard hoof. Their narrow feet and protective hooves allow zebras to run on rough terrain that would hurt most animals’ feet. It’s important for zebras to be good runners so that they can escape predators like leopards. But they’d get tired if they ran all the time—they spend many hours standing still every day, grazing!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
This month’s Zooworks readers clearly paid a lot of attention to the latest issue of Zoobooks, because their drawings of zebras are spectacular! All of these drawings show a lot of talent and creativity—do you have a special favorite?
Summer’s a great time to see some of the amazing insects that make up so much of life on earth, and in our latest issue of Zootles, you can learn about some of the most beautiful insects: butterflies! If you’re out in your yard or a neighborhood park, you might see butterflies like the monarch in this picture. However, if you travel (or visit a zoo), you might be able to see different species, like the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. This butterfly from Papua New Guinea is the largest in the world—it can reach up to 11 inches across!
Even though butterflies come in all shapes and sizes, they all have some things in common. They have four wings, and compound eyes that they use to see ultraviolet (UV) light—something that humans can’t do. They also have a long, thin mouth part called a proboscis (it looks a little like a nose, but it’s not) that they use for drinking water and flower nectar. The next time you see some butterflies, look for what they have in common, and what makes them unique!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons