Skip to main content

Librarians lead us into a summer of adventure with Bug Safari

Posted by Katie Remine, Youth & Adult Engagement Manager, Woodland Park Zoo
with Ryan Driscoll, Lead Learning Facilitator, Woodland Park Zoo
and Amy Twito, Informal Learning Program Manager, The Seattle Public Library

Cherry blossoms are blooming, spring is in the air, the perfect time to soak up nature! Photo via
Zoos, science museums, and public libraries all share a common goal: to inspire lifelong learning and curiosity in the world around us. In the spirit of fostering experiential learning across generations and supporting early childhood and youth development, Woodland Park Zoo and The Seattle Public Library are bringing an exciting, new learning opportunity to Seattle-based children and families. In partnership with Science Action Club of the California Academy of Sciences, we are thrilled to offer an adventurous “Bug Safari” curriculum for after-school and summer programming!

This summer, the library will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Summer of Learning program aimed at reducing summer learning loss through free hands-on programs, reading promotion, and book giveaways. The 2019 theme is “Explore Your World!” and will feature librarian-led Bug Safari programs all over the city. Earlier this year, a team from Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) facilitated training for almost 50 Seattle Public Library (SPL) children’s and teen librarians on informal activities offered through the Bug Safari module of Science Action Club (SAC).

Group photo of Teen Services Librarians from The Seattle Public Library at the Bug Safari training at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo credit: Amy Twito

WPZ attended a SAC training course at the California Academyof Sciences in 2016, and over the next couple of years partnered with the National Girls’ Collaborative Project to extend this SAC training to a wide variety of afterschool education providers across the state. The SAC Bug Safari curriculum prioritizes the same values as the zoo and library in several ways. First, it’s dedicated to providing equitable and inclusive science learning opportunities for children and youth from communities most impacted by economic, racial, and other societal inequities. Each training devotes time for reflecting on and discussing how the Bug Safari modules can be adapted to support the needs of early learners, English language learners, intergenerational groups, youth from diverse cultural backgrounds, and emerging teen leaders.

Reading in nature, it doesn't get better! Photo via
Second, the Bug Safari module capitalizes on a shared value of citizen science by engaging the general public in scientific research and providing people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to add their own observations to a growing body of scientific knowledge. Youth learn about the insects that live in their neighborhoods and can upload local observations to the free mobile app iNaturalist, an online community of experts that helps validate species identifications.

Finally, Bug Safari fosters empathetic connections —both for animals and for other people.
In SAC trainings at Woodland Park Zoo, participants met some of our favorite, awe-inspiring animal ambassadors. Zoo learning facilitators modeled and explained techniques for building empathy for all animals, even those that may not be initial fan-favorites like Madagascar hissing cockroaches. By the end of the session, even participants who had initially hesitated were enjoying becoming acquainted with these charismatic insects.

SPL Children’s Librarian Miss Bea pets a Madagascar hissing cockroach during a recent Bug Safari training at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo credit: Amy Twito

“This training helped expand the capacity of our youth services librarians to facilitate fun, hands-on learning programs and gave us additional tools for summer programming in our branches and through our partnerships with community-based organizations,” says Amy Twito, Informal Learning Program Manager at the Seattle Public Library.

“We are so glad to see this long-term partnership continue to flourish,” says Alejandro Grajal, Woodland Park Zoo’s president and CEO. “Thank you [to Seattle Public Library] for being our cherished partner, for your interest and support in science education, and for being a strong community anchor.”

Honey bee via
From Anchorage to Albany, over 18,000 youth in more than 200 communities participate in Science Action Club every year, according to Laura Herszenhorn, Director of Expanded Learning and Youth Engagement at the California Academy of Sciences. She adds, “Science Action Club strives to inspire the next generation of critical thinkers and environmental stewards. We’re thrilled to have the Seattle Public Library and Woodland Park Zoo as valued partners in this important work.”

We hope to see you this summer at the Seattle Public Library for a summer of learning focused on exploring your world, or at Woodland Park Zoo for up-close experiences with animals! To get started, stop by your local Seattle Public Library location,,  or check out Woodland Park Zoo’s website at for information on the 2019 City Nature Challenge. More than 150 cities across the globe are participating in this friendly citizen science competition. You can help the Seattle-Tacoma area win and discover nature in your backyard by logging observations of wildlife through the iNaturalist platform from April 26 – 29!

Spend time in nature, snap a pic and upload to iNaturalist to take part in the City Nature Challenge! Photo of ferns via