From elephants to sharks and formal gardens to natural woodlands, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, promises new discoveries around every corner. Each year, more than 100,000 students visit the zoo and garden for a carefully crafted program.
“We want students to understand why zoos and aquariums exist,” said Elizabeth Clemens, director of education. “There was a period of time when zoos and aquariums were looked at as strictly entertainment venues, but we are so much more than that. All student programs are designed to fit South Carolina Science Academic Standards and are developed to involve students in active, student-centered learning.
“Middle and high school groups visiting Riverbanks are not looking for a classroom-based program, but rather one that might be more relevant to what they are studying,” Clemens said. “Dependent on the tour topic, we guide them through different aspects of the zoo or garden.”
Balancing Act shows students how interdependence keeps ecosystems running; Animal Behaviors teaches groups how behaviors help animals survive; Animals Around The World focuses on the world’s biomes; and The List: A Conservation Challenge demonstrates the importance of keeping animals off the endangered list and what Riverbanks is doing to help.
“Most groups are looking for a career-related program and the one that does that best is our Zoo and Garden Careers tour,” Clemens said. “The big focus of this, that most people don’t realize, is that almost any job you can imagine is required to operate a successful zoo and garden. Our jobs range from horticulture to maintenance, education, marketing and information technology.”
Visiting groups should consider adding on a Jungle Meal through Riverbanks’ food and retail contractor. Available Monday through Friday, scheduled Jungle Meal lunches are delivered to the sheltered Safari Camp picnic pavilion when booked at least two weeks in advance.
Motorcoach parking is available on-site.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden