Grade school teacher Lilla has been volunteering at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in La Garita, Costa Rica for several months! If you’re an educator, teacher, or a parent wondering how you can make your visit to Rescate…or any animal sanctuary…more engaging for children, Lilla has some tips for you!
Keep in mind: These activities are based off of the Costa Rican school system’s curriculum. Check your local curriculum for ideas that are relevant to what your kids are learning in school!
1st through 3rd Graders
If you’re visiting with children in first, second, or third grade, you might want to look at animals and where they live in their natural habitat.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Does a bat live in water, or in a cave?
- Does the sloth like to run around on the ground, or are they relaxing in a tree?
- Where do turtles like to hang out?
- Are big cats sitting in the sun out in the open, or do they enjoy the shade?
For an activity, ask children to talk about where they would and would not expect to see certain animals.
4th through 7th Graders
By fourth grade, children can start to think about how the rainforest ecosystem works, according to the Costa Rican school system.
This can include different levels of the rainforest, like the emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor.
Questions to consider:
- Where in the forest would you expect to find an agile spider monkey, and why?
- What kinds of food and activities would a monkey be most interested in?
- Where would you expect to find a large mammal like a tapir? Close to the forest floor, or high in the canopy?
- Where would you expect to find a macaw?
- How do a leopard’s spots help them blend in to their surroundings?
Once children reach eighth grade, the Costa Rican curriculum will ask them to consider more advanced aspects of ecosystems and animal life.
Costa Rica contains different natural environments like various masses of water: oceans, lakes, rivers, and mangroves, for example. There are also various ecosystems within coral reefs, wetlands, and the cloud forests.
Children at this level will be asked to consider the balance of these ecosystems and how they could be impacted by an invasive species, change in weather, or human construction.
In a coral reef ecosystem, fish use reefs to hide from predators, reproduce, and raise their young. Algae that grows on the reef provides rich oxygen through photosynthesis. Coral use this oxygen for food, which means algae and coral mutually help one another.
Questions to consider:
- How could the actions of birds like macaws impact other animals on the ground?
- How could draining bodies of water or polluting bodies of water impact the turtles?
- If new construction cuts down trees, how will this impact the activities and survival rates of sloths?
Some other interesting observations and questions for teachers and visitors:
- Which resident animals are native to Costa Rica, and which are not?
- Can you spot the differences between a two-toed and three-toed sloth?
- Why is a big cat or other wild animal not a good pet?
- What do different animals do to get the attention of a partner?
- What do different animals do to warn other animals to back away?
When we ask questions about the behaviors, appearances, and patterns of animals, we learn more about how they live and thrive in the world!
* written by Volunteer Lisa Martens