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Cycle of Life

Location: Edinburgh Zoo & Highland Wildlife Park

Lesson Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes

Maximum Class Size: 25

Age Suitability:  Primary 6-7


An introduction to reproduction, growth and development. Pupils find out about the changes that take place in animals as they develop sexual maturity. 

Lesson Outline

The lesson begins with a walkabout tour to visit some of our animals.  This highlights the differences between males and females, the changes that take place as animals develop sexual maturity, the life cycles of birds and mammals and the differences in family structure and parental care. During the tour, children are challenged to observe particular features of each animal to keep them thoroughly engaged.

The lesson then moves into the Education Centre to re-cap on the learning points already covered and to focus on mate selection, reproduction and birth. This includes still images of an elephant embryo developing in the womb, and a short video of an elephant giving birth. Children are also encouraged to consider the human life cycle and to ask questions.

Learning Outcomes
  • To develop an awareness of gender identity
  • To recognise the physical changes that take place during puberty
  • To understand menstruation and the female reproductive cycle
  • To understand sperm production and the significance of mating
  • To understand development of the young during pregnancy and egg incubation, including birth and hatching
  • To recognise different forms of parental care, including feeding and lactation
Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes
  • SCN 2-14a ‘By investigating lifecycles of plants and animals, I can recognise the different stages of their development.’
  • SCN 3-14a ‘I understand the processes of fertilisation and embryonic development and can discuss possible risks to the embryo.’