Hellabrunn Zoo School: Where classroom meet nature
For almost 30 years, the Hellabrunn Zoo School has been a popular destination for extracurricular learning for schools in Munich and the surrounding area. Last year the Zoo School hosted 320 classroom events for pupils to attend.
"On the first day of their arrival for a several-day project at the Zoo School, I engage the pupils by asking them to guess how much does the skull of a pelican weigh, and then carefully place it in their hand. This usually breaks the ice and arouses their interest in our animals completely," says Kerstin Bartesch, Head of Zoo School. Bartesch, a qualified biology and chemistry teacher, has been running the Zoo School at Hellabrunn for the past nine years. She and her colleague Christina Neuenhagen, inspire children of all age groups to learn about biodiversity. Pupils who attend Zoo School will have an opportunity to experience the zoo in a whole new way. The educational programmes are organised as either class periods or several-day projects. The focus of the lessons is on the observation of individual species. "The children work in groups and observe a species very closely, making note of how the animal looks, how it behaves and what distinguishing features they are able to spot. As a result, a special bond usually develops with the animal. The pupil groups will then present their observations before the class", adds Bartesch. The largely independent "research work" carried out by the pupils also stimulates the development of their methodological and social skills. The variety of natural world topics, along with the option of an interdisciplinary educational method, make each project individual and different.
Apart from individual lessons lasting between 90 and 180 minutes - suitable for primary, middle and high school pupils - the Zoo School also offers projects lasting several days. There are a range of subjects to choose from such as cats, animals of the Polar Regions, reptiles or primates. In the school year 2016/2017, the Hellabrunn Zoo School hosted 195 such project days for fifth and sixth grades. Project days are unique to the Zoo School in Munich, because they are only available in Germany in this form at Hellabrunn.
With around 320 classroom events per year as well as training events, workshops for teachers and seminars, the Zoo School has long been operating at the edge of its capacity. Bartesch is therefore all the more delighted about plans for the new Zoo School currently being built as part of a new project at Hellabrunn called the Mill Village. Christine Strobl, Mayor and Chairman of the Board, also looks forward to the completion of the new Zoo School: "Up until now, the Zoo School has been housed in a single large room at the edge of the zoo. With the construction of a state-of-the-art Zoo School in the heart of the Mill Village, the close proximity to the village farm animals offers a whole new possibility for hands-on lessons and direct contact with the animals." The Zoo School is particularly close to her heart. "Moving the Zoo School into the Mill Village is an important part of the educational concept at Hellabrunn. Every year countless school classes from Munich and the surrounding area visit the Zoo School as an extracurricular learning destination, where they spend an exciting and informative day at the zoo," adds Strobl.
Upon completion in summer 2019, the Zoo School will feature a total of four classrooms and will be situated in the Mill Village. The adult education programme at Hellabrunn will also be further expanded. Until then, lessons at the current Zoo School location will be run in the best possible way within the scope of the facilities available.