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First time zoos

Some might think there is something old-fashioned about zoos and the idea of caging creatures is morally suspect nowadays. But they still can provide a thrill for children who are unlikely to see creatures in their natural habitat. Here are Ted Wragg's tips for a memorable visit.

* Before going to the zoo: discuss the types of animals pupils will be able to see and particular points to look for, like what a marsupial, crustacean, or arachnid is and how it behaves.

* No sticking your head into the lion's cage: this may seem a self-evident stricture, but unruly or unthinking children have been known to feed animals when they shouldn't or even oke a stick into a cage - unforgivable from a school party.

* Remember to place the animals into their real habitat: the slumbering Jaguar given a large chunk of meat by its keeper each day bears little resemblance to the powerful killer chasing a zebra or wildebeest.

* Take advantage of educational facilities: use the education officers, guides, graphics, displays, CD-Roms, film show, or whatever is on offer; get children to prepare some questions in advance.

* Follow up afterwards: for example, children can compile an animals book, with photographs and text, under various headings such as big cats, reptiles, birds of prey.

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