If Dorothy’s exclamation of “Lions and tigers, and bears, oh my!” from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz resonates vividly for your young learner, then consider a unique family fun and learning experience at the largest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world, The Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, Colorado. On that sanctuary’s “Mile into the Wild” elevated walkway and platform system, your young learner can stand safely above lions and tigers and bears, viewing and observing big carnivores in large acreage, species specific habitats.
Standing in the open air, without the confines of glass walls, delightfully stimulates sensory learning. As the Colorado wind blows your child’s hair, your young learner will see fur move on large carnivores like big lions, grizzly and brown bears, or even on a beautiful albino tiger moves. When the tiger growls or the bears snarl, whether distant or close, those sounds move naturally into your learner’s ears. There are no orchestrated performances at the sanctuary, but patience can pay off with exciting wildlife viewing, such as seeing the grizzly cub merrily climb onto a rock and groom its own paw or spotting a lion’s head as it suddenly appears in shifting waves of green grass.
Audio tour learning
Factual learning is facilitated by informational signs near the habitats on the elevated walkway. Additionally, the Wild Animal Sanctuary provides the free service of an informational audio tour recording easily accessed via guest cell phone. Each habitat has prerecorded information, over and above each individualized habitat’s signage, that can inform and intrigue your family and learner. The audio tour is free, remembers your last position, and conveniently shifts automatically to the next position. No need to memorize the call-in number as it’s handily provided on signs or simply ask at the ticket desk as you enter or during the brief orientation talk provided to everyone that visits the sanctuary.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary has an enclosed Education Center with access included with your family’s entry fee. The Education Center informs meaningfully into the sanctuary’s rescue-centric mission.
If your family and young learners enjoy video information, be sure to stop at the Education Center. Featured videos include materials from National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet, and fascinating rescue stories are presented.
Have a picnic near the animals
If a family picnic at tables and chairs near and above resting or playful carnivores sounds like fun, be sure to pack a picnic break. As you stroll the elevated walkway, each of the main observation decks has picnic tables and chairs. Additionally, there’s a small garden area at the foot of the main ramp. The facility allows and welcomes visitors to bring picnic lunches and/or snacks.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary has a snack bar, where visitors can purchase lunch, snacks, and/or beverages. The snack bar provides items such as hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, snacks, and drinks.
To facilitate bringing a lunch or other viewing gear, such as binoculars, cameras, or just the family jackets, wagons can be rented for $5 on a first come, first served basis.
Handy tips for a family learning visit
- For most of the visit, you’ll be on the open walkways. Colorado weather shifts during the day, so bring sunscreen, hats, and jackets that are weather-appropriate.
- Young learners will benefit from the observational assistance of binoculars to view animals that linger at the far edges of their large habitat areas.
- Young learners enjoy capturing images of the large carnivores, and the sanctuary permits both video and still cameras on the walkways.
- Encourage your young learner’s documentation of details, factual or creative, about the wildlife viewing experience whether in a journal, on film or still photography, or sketches.
- Sharing knowledge encourages modern, collaborative learning, so be sure to chat with your young learner about your own observations. Further share and integrate knowledge with social media sharing of the trip’s experiences with trusted friends and family.
The following, suggested learning resources target key carnivores that will encountered at the Wild Animal Sanctuary. The learning resources can be utilized before and/or after the Wild Animal Sanctuary visit.
- KidsKonnect provides a free lion fact list as well as a downloadable Lion Study Pack.
- Tiger facts for kids, including photos and video, are available from the San Diego Zoo.
- Bear facts and printable bear activities and worksheets for kids are available from KidZone.
- Free information on carnivores is available online from National Geographic Education.
- William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger,” is available online, and makes a rhythmic, image-filled introduction.
- John Ciardi’s poem, “Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo” and Sandra McPherson’s poem, “Lions,” are available from The Poetry Foundation.
- For the entire family or older learners, three poems are available online: Galway Kinnell’s “The Bear,” Hayden Carruth’s “Bears at Raspberry Time,” and Gary Snyder’s “this poem is for bear.”
- Check out the slideshow accompanying this article for photographic views of “lions and tigers and bears.”
- Check out the Wild Animal Sanctuary’s Facebook page.
As no senior or veteran discounts are available, the Admissions Fee system at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado is simple. All adults are charged $15, and children, ages 3 to 12, are charged $7.50 with accompanied, younger children allowed to enter without charge.
Directions and hours
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is located at 1946 County Road 53 in Keenesburg, Colorado. The sanctuary’s website offers this helpful advice for drivers: “If you use your GPS to get here – please make sure it takes you up I-76 all the way to the town of Hudson, CO (if you are coming from Denver) – as many of the GPS programs will have you turn off of the Interstate Highway early (on Bromely Lane) – which will take you on the back roads (terrible bumpy dirt roads) if you don’t pay attention – so please make sure you stay on the Interstate Highway all the way to Hudson.” The sanctuary is not difficult to locate.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary only schedules closings for four holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and New Year’s Day. Otherwise, it’s open from 9 AM to sunset. However, in case of bad weather, the Wild Animal Sanctuary does close, so if in doubt, call 303-536-0118.
There’s simple excitement for young learners at seeing large, wonderful carnivores in open spaces. While an extensive African Safari might be on your family’s coveted bucket list, the chance to view large carnivores from The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s “Mile into the Wild” is an accessible, fun-filled, family walking safari, right in the United States.
Learning experiences and observations gleaned from visiting places like “Mile into the Wild” build your young learner’s naturalist and environmental intelligences, enhancing your learner’s connections to nature and the world’s environments. With strengthening of the naturalist intelligence, your young learner builds lasting insights and valuable empathies that bring personal meaning and connection to Henry David Thoreau’s memorable words, “Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel and Recreation as well as National Education and Industry materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively in retirement as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced research scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other holds a graduate degree in humanities and is the former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.
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