Wow what a trip… Tuesday 16th April saw Wellington College International Hangzhou Years 1 to 3 visit Hangzhou Safari Park. It was a wonderfully educational day. The Year 1 children have just started their new topic ‘Live and Let Live’ and this fantastic trip opened up the children’s awareness and imaginations, while sparking a newfound interest in animals and nature.
We started our topic by reading books together about some of the different types of animals there are and what makes those animals unique. We discussed herbivores, carnivores and omnivores as well as different types of habitats, some of which we hoped to see at the safari park.
The park itself was opened in 2002. “It is a collection of animal protection, animal reproduction, endangered animal rescue and protection, cultural science education and animal science research. It is a comprehensive ecological park for sightseeing, recreation and entertainment” (Hangzhou Safari Park).
We arrived at the park after a fun coach trip and while the park was busy with other school trips, there was plenty of space to get ourselves organised and move around. On arrival, the safari train was waiting to take us on the Safari Trail. On this trail we got up close to some amazing creatures, some of which the children hadn’t seen before or certainly not had the opportunity to get so close to! The children were so excited to see such a wide range of animals whilst on the train, such as the incredibly cute baby giraffes and the huge elephants. The children were fascinated to find out that the elephant’s long nose was actually a trunk that they use for so many different things.
After the train ride around the safari we had time to visit the different areas of the park and the children were in awe of the variety of unusual looking animals they saw. We spotted llamas, big cats, a big cute panda (we all loved this), bears, giraffes and even baby monkeys. The real animals the children saw were a connection to the real world and inspired the children to ask questions and want to learn more.
This exposure to real-world examples is so important as children spend more and more time in front of screens. Seeing an enormous animal on screen does not compare to, nor give them the insight and excitement of, seeing an actual elephant for example. When children are watching intently and saying: “Wow they’re enormous!” or “That is so cool”, you know they are fully engaged, and therefore learning in a way that will stick.”
Observations were made at the safari park, and a huge amount of information was collected through pictures and writing. We brought this all back to the classroom and will be using it throughout our unit. Year 1 will give a short assembly about it next week. I believe the lasting effect of visiting places like the safari park is for children to make genuine connections with animals, which will ultimately inspire them to take better care of this planet we share. This is consistent with our Wellington values and identities.