HELLO! WELCOME TO COLCHESTER ZOO

Home Education Classes

Free educational sessions for home educated children

These sessions are aimed at families who home educate. If you are a teacher at a school, please see our school page for more details (click here). Sessions are free to attend, but require pre-registration.  Unregistered children will not be allowed to participate. Home education classes are designed to build on one another, and you can (if registered) attend all the age-appropriate sessions, or if you prefer, just register for one or two. 

These sessions do not include entry to the zoo. Participants must arrange entry separately either by paying standard entry fees (click here for prices), organising themselves with 15 people and attend as a group (click here for group details), or using zoo passes (click here for pass details) (recommended if you plan on attending more than one session) to gain entry to the zoo.


Session Dates:

  • Wed 7th September
  • Mon 3rd October
  • Wed 16th November
  • Mon 5th December
  • Wed 11th January
  • Mon 6th February
  • Wed 15th March
  • Wed 19th April
  • Mon 8th May
  • Wed 7th June
  • Mon 17th July

See below for the specific topics covered at each session.  Click on any of the session titles for a more detailed description of each session including key topics covered.

Scheduled sessions for ages 5-7 are:

Classes for age 5-7 meet from 12:30-1:15pm. These classes last 45 minutes.

Scheduled sessions for ages 7-11 are:

Classes for age 7-11 meet from 1:30-2:15pm (session full) and 11:30-12:15* (spaces still available). These classes last 45 minutes.
*for March, the second session time is 2:30-3:15.

Scheduled sessions for ages 11-16 are:

Classes for age 11-16 meet from 2:30-3:30 OR 2:30-4:00pm
These classes last 60 minutes OR 90 minutes (see session descriptions for specifics).


Class registration: Participants must be registered a minimum of 2 days prior to the class. Please fill in this registration form (click here for form) and send via email to education@colchesterzoo.org to register for the sessions.

Minimum Class Size: Colchester Zoo reserves the right to cancel a class, no less than 4 days prior to the class, if registration is under five participants. In this event, you will be notified via the contact information you provided when you registered.

Maximum Class Size: Classes have a maximum of 25 participants.  If a class is full, you may be put on a waiting list.  If there is enough interest the session may run an additional time on the same day.

Unattended Sessions: If you are unable to attend a session, please inform Colchester Zoo via email (education@colchesterzoo.org) as soon as possible. This will allow the zoo to contact someone on the waiting list to let them attend. If you repeatedly do not attend sessions you are registered for, without letting the zoo know, you may be removed from future sessions.

Adult Supervision: All children attending sessions must be accompanied by an adult.

Age to Attend Sessions: The sessions are divided into different age groups because this lets us tailor the session to include terminology and activities which are better suited to different age ranges. However, the ages we provide are just guidelines of where we will be targeting the information/activities, not firm requirements. To ensure the smooth running of the session, and for the benefit of all participants, we request younger/older children do not attend if they would be disruptive to the rest of the group.


Sessions for Ages 5-7

(12:30-1:15)


September – Hands-on

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 7th September 2016
Children will get the chance to investigate real animal fur, feathers, scales, and bones. We’ll practice using descriptive words to label the objects. We’ll then sort the objects into groups.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: body coverings of different animals (fur, feathers, scales).


October – Colour & Camouflage

Ages 5-7, Monday 3rd October 2016
Why are animals bright colours? Why do animals blend in? Children will try to spot all the camouflaged animals while learning about the benefits of spots, stripes, and changing colours.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: definition of term camouflage; different types of camouflage; bright colours for protection and warning.


November - Senses

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 16th November 2016
Children will review the five main senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Rotating around activities, children will get the chance to explore their senses while learning about some of the amazing senses animals have.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: human senses; how animals are different and similar to humans.


December - Penguins

Ages 5-7, Monday 5th December 2016
Get the chance to learn more about these charismatic birds. Using penguin roll play, bio-facts and a costume, the group will discover what key adaptions penguins have as well as how these unique birds live.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: identify that living things are suited to the habitats they live in; adaptations to habitats.


January – Maths: Means, Measuring, and More

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 11th January 2017 
Working hands-on children will practice maths skills in a fun interactive way. They will get the chance to rotate around different activities that involve real animal artefacts, and even live animals.

MATHS focus.
Key points covered: looking for patterns, counting, measuring distance and time.


February – Dear Zoo

Ages 5-7, Monday 6th February 2017

ENGLISH and SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: listening to stories; needs of animals; characteristics of animals.


March – Saving Endangered Animals

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 15th March 2017
Why are animals dying out? Is this natural and normal? What are these animals' major threats? What can I do to help? These are all questions which will be answered during the sessions. The session is delivered in an upbeat and interactive way, focusing on guessing games and what we can do to help.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: define endangered and extinct; how can humans help wild animals.


April - Art

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 19th April 2017
Explore the work of some great wildlife and animal artists to learn how sketching and recording wildlife helps scientists understand the animals. Learn key points to include when drawing animals to help you identify them. Children then get the chance to examine animal artefacts up close and practice their technique.

ART focus.
Key points covered: different artistic style and techniques; recognition of famous and well-known artists.


May - Lifecycles

Ages 5-7, Monday 8th May 2017
Children investigate how different animals grow and develop. A variety of hands-on activities bring this topic to life as pupils examine eggs, and get up close with minibeasts at various life stages.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: how animals grow and change; metamorphosis; what types of animals lay eggs.


June - Minibeasts

Ages 5-7, Wednesday 7th June 2017
What is a minibeasts, and what is an insect? Children will learn the key characteristics of what makes and insect different than all the other minibeasts.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: key characteristics of insects compared to other minibeasts.


July – Pond Dipping

Ages 5-7, Monday 17th July 2017
Children will get the chance to visit our Nature Area and go pond dipping to discover what minibeasts are lurking under the water. As a group we’ll examine everything we’ve caught and learn more about them.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: types of minibeasts; local wildlife; how animals change and grow.


Sessions for Ages 7-11

(1:30-2:15 or 11:30-12:15*)


September – Hands-on Classification

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 7th September 2016
Children will get the chance to investigate real animal fur, feathers, scales, and bones. We’ll learn about the key characteristics of the main groups of animals. Using these characteristics, we’ll sort the objects into these groups.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: animal classification; key characteristics of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


October – Apes: Adaptations, Evolution, and Us

Ages 7-11, Monday 3rd October 2016
Children will discover what makes apes different from monkeys and other members of the primate order. While learning this, we cover the evolution of the primate order and how these animals are related to each other. Props, costumes, and a game to put pupil’s noses to the test will bring this topic alive and show pupils that apes truly are amazing.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: characteristics of the main types of primates; evolution of primates including humans.


November – Nocturnal Animals

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 16th November 2016
The dark might seem scary, but it is full of fascinating creatures. As a group we’ll decide which bits of costume to dress a volunteer up to demonstrate the major adaptations of nocturnal animals. Children will discover the main reasons animals are nocturnal and how it helps them find food, stay cool, and avoid predators.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: general nocturnal animal adaptations; key adaptations of bats and owls.


December – Penguins and Cold Places

Ages 7-11, Monday 5th December 2016
Using a costume, as a group we’ll explore the adaptations that animals have to live in cold places such as the Arctic and Antarctic. Based on this information, we’ll then investigate the question do penguins live in cold places? Children will encounter bio-facts to help them understand what makes a penguin a penguin, and how they are adapted to their habitats.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: animal adaptations for cold habitats; penguin adaptations.


January – Maths: Means, Measuring, and More

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 11th January 2017
Working hands-on children will practice maths skills in a fun interactive way. They will get the chance to rotate around different activities that involve real animal artefacts, and even live animals.

MATHS focus.
Key points covered: calculating averages, measuring volume, measuring speed.


February – Caring for Animals

Ages 7-11, Monday 6th February 2017
How do zoos look after animals? Children will compare the needs of zoo animals with the needs of common pet animals. Expanding on this, they will learn how mammals, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates have different needs.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: basic needs of living things, differences and similarities between animals, classification of animals.


March – Saving Endangered Animals

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 15th March 2017
*For the March session (and only March) the session times will be 1:30-2:15 (session full) and 2:30-3:15(spaces still available).
Why are animals dying out? Is this natural and normal? What are these animals' major threats? What can I do to help? These are all questions which will be answered during the sessions. The session is delivered in an upbeat and interactive way, focusing on guessing games and what we can do to help.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: define endangered and extinct; how can humans help wild animals.


April - Art

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 19th April 2017
Explore the work of some great wildlife and animal artists to learn how sketching and recording wildlife helps scientists understand the animals. Learn key points to include when drawing animals to help you identify them. Children then get the chance to examine animal artefacts up close and practice their technique.

ART focus.
Key points covered: different artistic style and techniques; recognition of famous and well-known artists.


May - Lifecycles

Ages 7-11, Monday 8th May 2017
Children investigate how different animals grow and develop. A variety of hands-on activities bring this topic to life as pupils examine eggs, and get up close with minibeasts at various life stages.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: metamorphosis; classification of animals; types of animals which lay eggs.


June – Minibeasts Classification

Ages 7-11, Wednesday 7th June 2017
Children will learn the key characteristics of the main types of minibeasts. Using sorting and comparison we will determine what is an insect, an arachnid, and other arthropods.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: key characteristics of common types of minibeasts including: insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes, and gastropods.


July – Pond Dipping

Ages 7-11, Monday 17th July 2017
Children will get the chance to visit our Nature Area and go pond dipping to discover what minibeasts are lurking under the water. As a group we’ll examine everything we’ve caught and learn more about them. Based on the animals we’ve caught, we’ll discuss what this might mean about the water quality.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: types of minibeasts; local wildlife; how animals change and grow; water quality indicators.


Sessions for Ages 11-16

(2:30-2:30 OR 2:30-4:00)


September – Classification

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 7th September 2016
90 minute session 2:30-4:00
Participants learn why we classify thing and how modern classification and binomial nomenclature developed. Participants then learn the key characteristics which define different animal phylum, with particular focus on the five main vertebrate groups. Using this knowledge, students examine real animal artefacts (skins, skulls, etc.) and practice classifying them based on their visual characteristics.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: differences between species; variation between individuals; genetic vs environmental variation; understanding the classification of living organisms; and Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species.


October – Primates: Adaptations, Evolution, and Us

60 minute session 2:30-3:30

Ages 11-16, Monday 3rd October 2016
Discover how diverse primates are, why they are amazing, and how to help save them. We start with an introduction to how primates evolved including a more in depth look at the evolution of great apes including hominids. As a group we’ll then compare and contrast the different primate species with a focus on the four main groups of primates: posimian (lemurs, etc.), new world monkeys, old world monkeys, and apes. We end with a discussion of the threat primates face, and what zoos and you can do to help them.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: Darwin’s theory of evolution; natural selection; differences between species; human development and how this impacts the environment.


November – Animal Enrichment

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 16th November 2016
90 minute session 2:30-4:00
Learn about how we keep animals in zoo entertain. The potential problems of boredom leading to stereotypical (abnormal) behaviour is examined. We’ll discuss the purpose of enrichment, as well as the importance of scientifically studying enrichment. Children will then get the change to give enrichment to the animals and complete a scientific study to discuss the results.

SCIENCE and ANIMAL CARE focus.
Key points covered: definition of enrichment and the importance of it; types of enrichment; stereotypical behaviour in captive animals; importance of valid scientific data; graphing; data collection.


December – Adaptations to Extreme Environments

Ages 11-16 Monday 5th December 2016
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
What specific adaptations do animals have? Participants will learn about physical, physiological, and behavioural adaptations. We’ll then focus on specific adaptations to hot and cold environments.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: adaptations; homeostasis; physiological adaptations; temperature regulation; extremities.


January – Animal Training

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 11th January 2017
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
Participants will learn the theory and practical application of animal training and how it relates to animal behaviour. As a starting point, we’ll learn the theory of classical and operant conditioning and the different types of operant conditioning. Building on that, participants discover how training is a form of operant conditioning, and how clicker training can be used as positive reinforcement operant conditioning.

ANIMAL CARE focus.
Key points covered: reasons for training animals; classical condition; operant condition; positive reinforcement; clicker training.


February – Animal Diet and Health

Ages 11-16, Monday 6th February 2017
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
This session opens with a brief introduction to animal nutrition. Participants then learn about different diets, and feeding preferences of a variety of animals. How diet relates to health is also discussed.

ANIMAL CARE focus.
Key points covered: herbivore, carnivore and omnivore diets; food presentation methods; how zoos get food; introduction to animal health.


March – Zoos and Conservation

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 15th March 2017
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
What do zoos do, and why? Participants learn the main goals of a modern zoo. Based on these goals, participants can consider their own opinions about zoos while discovering how zoos play vital roles in conservation. Colchester Zoo’s contributions to in-situ and ex-situ conservation will be discussed using specific case studies.

CITIZENSHIP and SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: endangered species; importance of biodiversity and potential benefits humans get from nature; history of zoos; ex-situ and in-situ conservation; species reintroduction; de-extinction.


April - Art

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 19th April 2017
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
This session opens with a brief introduction to wildlife art in general, and how Colchester Zoo specifically uses art. We’ll then explore the works of some great wildlife and animal artists with particular attention to subject and technique. Participants will then have the opportunity to practice their own technique by sketching/drawing/ or photographing from a variety of still life resources, including: furs, skins, skulls, feathers, and more. These resources allow participants to get up close and pay attention to textures, patterns, shape, and structure.

ART focus.
Key points covered: different artistic style and techniques; recognition of famous and well-known artists.


May – Marketing – into the Dragon’s Den

Ages 11-16, Monday 8th May 2017
90 minute session 2:30-4:00
Participants will learn what marketing is, and how we successfully market products at Colchester Zoo. The session covers a wide range of topics including: who our target customers are, who our competitors are, various levels of products, marketing strategies, product lifecycles, market research, and advertising. After learning about marketing, participants get the chance to go out into the zoo and conduct basic market research. Based on their research, they develop a new product including how much they would charge for it, who the target audience is, what gap it fills, and how they would promote it. Participants then pitch their new product idea to the entire group who decide if they would buy this new product.

BUSINESS focus.
Key points covered: target audiences; marketing strategies; product life cycle; types of advertisement; importance of market research; evaluating potential new products in terms of: potential for income, health and safety concerns, and benefit for the business.


June – Human Resources – Hiring and CVs

Ages 11-16, Wednesday 7th June 2017
90 minute session 2:30-4:00
This session covers the basics of what Colchester Zoo’s human resources department does. Participants learn about the staffing structure of the zoo including wages, departments, etc. We then walk through an example hiring processing including how we develop job descriptions, personal specifications and the job interview process. Participants then get the chance to complete a mock hiring process by evaluating a selection of CV’s. As a group we’ll discuss who may be most suited for the job, and how the others could have improved their CVs.

BUSINESS focus.
Key points covered: variety of departments and job roles within a zoo; importance of personnel specifications to the recruitment process; overview of job interviews; analyse CVs in terms of matching personnel specifications and other ways to improve.


July – Aquatic Invertebrate Investigation

Ages 11-16, Monday 17th July 2017
60 minute session 2:30-3:30
Participants will get the chance to visit our Nature Area and go pond dipping to determine what aquatic invertebrates (and vertebrates) live in the pond. Using classification keys we’ll identify the organisms we’ve caught. We’ll then discuss what types of animals they are and what this says about the water quality, and the ecosystem of the nature area in general.

SCIENCE focus.
Key points covered: using identification keys; understanding water quality; classification of animals specifically invertebrates; understanding the health of ecosystems.



Christmas Penguin Educational Experience 5th Dec 2016

Recommended for ages 5 to 9
60 minute session from 11am-12am

Take part in a wonderful Christmas educational experience for Home Educators at Colchester Zoo! The session with a festive elf who needs the group’s help to learn all about penguins. All participants will then get the chance to observe a real penguin up close to test what you’ve learned. Father Christmas will then join the group to see how much you’ve learned about one of his favourite winters animals! At you leave, Father Christmas will give each pupil a lovely penguin gift.

Due to the up close animal experience and the gift, there is a charge of £3 per child attending the session (this includes younger siblings attending).

Please note that we will still be running our usual free educational sessions later on in the day. As there is considerable overlap between the educational material covered in terms of learning about penguins, we recommend that if your child attends the Christmas Penguin Experience, they do not attend the regular free session that day (‘Penguins’ for ages 5-7 or ‘Penguins and Cold Places’ for ages 7-11).

This session has very limited places which will be filled on a first come first served basis (if there is enough interest we may run additional sessions, but we can’t guarantee this). If you would like to attend this special Christmas Session, please email education@colchesterzoo.org to register with your child(ren)’s name and age and the parent/guardian’s full name (please note that this is a completely separate session and requires different registration than the usual free sessions for which registration is via the form found higher on this page). If you have any questions, please email education@colchesterzoo.org.

Please note, this session (as with all the Home Education Sessions at Colchester Zoo) does not include entry to the zoo. Participants must arrange entry separately either by paying standard entry fees (click here for prices), organising themselves with 15 people and attend as a group (click here for group details), or using zoo passes (click here for pass details) (recommended if you plan on attending more than one session) to gain entry to the zoo.

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OPENING TIMES

Opening times: 

9.30am – 5.00pm or dusk if earlier*

*Last admission 4.00pm

upcoming events
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