We love our Houston Zoo because of their “swap shop.” We think the Naturally Wild Swap Shop is a little secret.  It is located at the start of the Children’s Zoo section, behind the new Bug House.  The school groups all skip it.  It is never crowded.  And, it is loaded with cool things to explore.  There are creatures, bones, bugs, shells, rocks, and a friendly cat.  In addition, half the time, a zoo educator has a creature friend to pet and learn about.  Children can also pick up zoo trading cards.  The staff is very friendly!  My son loves going there to chat with the staff and trade in nature items.

When he was little we would just bring in items to earn a few points and quickly trade for a rock or shell.  Last year, he learned that he could earn even more points if he made a project or presentation.  I found this to be a perfect way as a homeschooler for him to learn about poster board presentations and learn how to do research.  And, we have learned this is a way to get him interested in biology.  For every item he now brings in, he writes up a little story about where he got the item and then he includes the biological classification system that he had to research.  For some of his projects, he included pictures in addition to the item.  He is now working towards a 3000 point fish fossil.  He now views every vacation as a way to acquire more items for nature points.

Here are some of the projects he has worked on this year:

  • White-tail deer bones
  • Wintergreen leaves
  • Lichen
  • Aspen leaves
  • Paper wasp hive
  • Dragonfly
  • Chestnuts (the nuts, shell, & leaves)
  • Maple leaves
  • Slipper shells
  • Surf clam shells
  • Eastern oyster shell

For more information on the Naturally Wild Swap Shop please check here.  You will find information on what is allowed and how the points or trading system works in more detail.  You can bring in up to 3 different items per visit.  Of course if your child gives an oral presentation or a written presentation, they will earn even more points.

In addition to swap shop fun at our zoo, we have enjoyed their homeschool programs and special events too.  The Houston Zoo also has homeschool programs 4 times a year.  The Zoo also has Zoo Yoga and Wild Wheels.  We did wild wheels when he was toddler as it is meant for birth to 3.  Zoo yoga is new and for kids ages 4 to 10.  We still enjoy member morning, zookeeper chats, the splash pad, Zoobilee, and Houston Zoo Lights.  We have found the Houston Zoo to be a great resource for our homeschooling!