Book a FREE* activity for your students 

Sessions are 45 minutes (unless otherwise stated).

Sessions work best with 30 or fewer pupils. However, if you are bringing larger groups it may be possible to accommodate more depending on the specific session. Please contact us to discuss this in more detail.

Our sessions are limited in availability and very popular.
Please book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

If you have any questions about these sessions or wish to check availability on a specific date, please contact our education department directly at 01206 332511, 01206 332512 or 01206 331292 or email education@colchesterzoo.org

*Colchester Zoo reserves the right to charge a £20 fee educational sessions which are booked but not attended.


Available Secondary Sessions:

Click on an education session for more details including curriculum links

Unsure which session to book? Click here to open our session matrix in a new tab, it highlights the specific subjects and key skills covered in each session.

All sessions will assist you in the teaching of ‘British Values’ and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. (SMSC)


Detailed Session Descriptions:


Adaptations Talk KS3 or KS4

What specific adaptations do animals have? Students will learn about structural, physiological, and behavioural adaptations. Volunteers are dressed in costumes and the group will discuss the benefits of their adaptations. For lower groups, this is then elaborated on by exploring some of the key adaptions of predator/prey animals and animals living in hot/cold habitats. Higher groups focus entirely on hot/cold habitat adaptations with a focus on homeostasis, including enzyme functions.

Click for National Curriculum links

Animal Careers KS3 or KS4

This session will provide your students with information about the range of jobs available in the animal industry (not just being a zookeeper!). Details of these jobs including typical daily tasks as well as specific job requirements will be discussed. Suggestions on volunteering experience and what courses are useful are also covered. For each job role discussed in detail, an interview with a staff member working in that job provides a real life context for their career path.
This session works well if your students are interested in pursuing a career in the animal industry, or if your students need to know details about zoo job roles including specific requirements and qualifications.

Click for key topics covered

Art at the Zoo KS3 or KS4

Please note this session is for a maximum of 30 students.
This session opens with a brief introduction to Colchester Zoo and how we use art. Then students have the opportunity to sketch, draw, or photograph from a variety of still life resources, including: furs, skins, skulls, feathers, and more. These resources allow students to get up close and pay attention to textures, patterns, shape, and structure.
Students attending this session must bring their own dry drawing materials, sketchbooks, cameras, etc. Art materials will not be provided.

Click for National Curriculum links

Classification Session KS3 or KS4

Updated and Revised 2019!

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
After discovering why we classify things, students will learn how modern classification developed.  Following this, students get the chance to guess what characteristics define animals in different phyla, with particular focus on the five main vertebrate groups. Students will then get the chance to get hands-on with a variety of animal biofacts (furs, skulls, etc.) and practice sorting these objects into groups.  After going through the other levels of organisation, students learn about what makes a species a species.

Click for National Curriculum links

Cures OR Conservation KS4

The Future and History of Animals in Traditional Medicine

New 2019!

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
Many human cultures around the world and throughout history have used and continue to use animals, and parts of animals, as medicine.  In this session students will learn about some amazing, scientifically proven medicines that have been based on chemicals and compounds found in a variety of animals.  We then discuss the conservation issues associated with this, explained through the problem of bear bile farms.

We will then take a look how animals have been used throughout the history of European Medicine. The use of animals in modern Traditional Medicine is then linked back to endangered species with this concept explored in more detail with the explanation of how rhino horn is not medicine. Students will then get the chance to see real animal artifacts up close and learn how they have traditionally been used as medical treatment. We will then discuss the step by step process that scientists and researchers use when they attempt to find out if something is medicine and how they would go about creating new drugs. The session ends with a look at medicines of the future, and what the future could hold for Traditional Medicine with reference to the World Health Organisation.

Click for National Curriculum links

Ecosystems – KS3 or KS4

New 2019!

Please note this session is for a maximum of 30 students.
Up and active games will help illustrate the complexities of food webs, ecosystems, bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Through the accompanying talk, we’ll explore these concepts in more detail. We’ll then discover the problem of plastic litter, and what it is doing to the world’s ocean. This leads into the surprising and dead link between ocean plastics and persistent organic pollutants. The session ends with a look at what can be done to help solve these complex environmental problems.

Click for National Curriculum links

English – Debating Skills KS3 or KS4

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
Spoken English, including formal debates and structured discussions are key components of the English curriculum. At Colchester Zoo we recognise that zoos are an often debated topic. In this session, students are introduced to key debating terms and practice their speaking and listening skills. Through a series of debating games students learn the concepts of agreement, disagreement, and persuasive speaking. After the session, students are provided with worksheets for them to record first-hand observations about the pros and cons of the zoo. At the end of the session, teachers are provided with our detailed ‘Zoo Debate’ lesson plan, which includes two critical reading exercises. These classroom activities, in conjunction with the worksheets students complete at the zoo, culminate in a classroom debate about the purpose and benefit of zoos.

Click for National Curriculum links

Evolutionary Biology KS3 or KS4

New 2019!

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
In this session, your students will get hands-on and examine real scientific study skins. They will then use their observations to create evolutionary hypotheses based on real historical data from natural history collections around the world. Prior to developing their hypotheses, the session introduces the concept of evolution, based on Darwin’s work and the Galapagos Finches. This includes a discussion of variation (environmental/genetic and continuous/discontinuous). For higher level groups, the session delves into phenotype and genotype in more detail (and their inherent complexities).

Click for National Curriculum links

Maths Session KS3

Please note this session is for a maximum of 30 students.
Students work in small groups practicing real world hands-on maths skills. Groups rotate around different stations with animal artefacts, animal diets and even live animals. At each station, students work together to solve a maths problem including designing enclosures, calculating medicine dosages, measuring speeds, and converting currencies.

Click for National Curriculum links

Q & A Session KS3 and KS4

Please note this session is for a maximum of 50 students.
This session is a bookable timeslot for your students to ask Colchester Zoo staff questions.  Zoo staff are prepared to answer questions on a wide range of topics including how we use science at Colchester Zoo, how we meet the needs of our customers, health and safety concerns of a zoo, case study examples of our conservation projects around the world, or a focus on any other topic.

This session is ideal for students who are required to gather specific information for completing mock assessment, portfolios, workbooks, etc.

Students attending this session MUST come prepared with a list of question to ask the speaker.


Saving Endangered Species KS3 or KS4

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
Many animals are endangered and threatened with extinction. In this session, students will learn about the major threats facing endangered animals: habitat loss, over use, pollution, and for older students, invasive species and poaching. Students will get the chance to see real animal artefacts up close, and learn some of the shocking facts about endangered species. These problems are contrasted with positive actions students can take to help endangered animals, with a specific focus on product labelling and how to make smart consumer choices.

This talk focuses on a variety of issues causing endangered species and what people can do to help. If you would like to focus specifically on poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, book the Wildlife Forensics Session. If you would like to focus specifically on ways zoos are helping endangered animals, book the Zoos & Conservation Session.

Click for National Curriculum links

Science in the Wild KS3

Please note this session is for a maximum of 30 students.
Students will learn how our real life wildlife ranger team use science in the wild at our nature reserve in South Africa. After an introduction to the topic, students learn a variety of real wildlife sampling techniques, including tracks, scat, browse, and mark-recapture calculations. The students then get hands-on in the classroom with real field skills and identify animals found on the reserve through a variety of methods to answer the question: what part of the reserve has the greatest biodiversity.

Click for National Curriculum links

Wildlife Forensics Session KS3 or KS4

Please note this session is for a maximum of 40 students.
Students explore the issues of illegal wildlife crime, learning about the problems of hunting, poaching, pets, souvenirs, medicine, and bushmeat. While examining real, seized artefacts of the illegal wildlife trade, students learn how organisations are helping to stop these crimes by identifying criminals and identifying the animal victims. Some of the methods, such as finger print analysis and firearm analysis may be familiar, but students will also get to try feather identification, and skull identification as well as learning about DNA analysis for species and parentage. Students will leave with new science skills and an appreciation of the threat caused by wildlife crime.

This session focuses on the illegal wildlife trade including poaching. If you would like a more general talk on the many other reasons for endangered species, and human actions to help endangered species, book the Saving Endangered Species Talk. If you would like to focus specifically on ways zoos are helping endangered animals, book the Zoos and Conservation Talk.

Click for National Curriculum links

Zoos & Conservation Talk KS3 or KS4

The Role of Zoos in the 21st Century

What do zoos do, and why?  Students learn the main goals of a modern zoo. Based on these goals, students 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.

This talk includes details on ways zoos are helping endangered animals, including specific examples. If you would like to focus specifically on poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, book the Wildlife Forensics Session. If you would like to focus on the variety of issues causing endangered species and what individuals can do to help, book the Endangered Species Session.

Click for National Curriculum links

Zoo Visitor Social Science KS4

Real world case studies of psychology and sociology in context

New 2019!

45 min session – focusing on Social & Environmental OR Cognitive & Conservation
90 min session -combined version covering all four topics.

Students will discover how psychology and sociological concepts are applied in practice at Colchester Zoo to help us meet our mission statement goals. These goals are: ‘Be a Great Visitor Attraction’ explored through Social and Environmental (the physical environment around visitors) aspects of social science, ‘Help Visitors Learn about Animals’ explored through a Cognitive lens, and ‘Help Endangered Animals’ explored through a Conservation lens.
Various peer-reviewed, published studies are used as the basis for concepts and ideas explored throughout the session, and real-world specific studies we have conducted at Colchester Zoo. These include explanations of research method used.

Click for curriculum topics covered:

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