Education: My Heart is Like a Zoo

February is the perfect month to share one of our favorite children’s books: “My Heart is Like a Zoo”, by Michael Hall. This book is cleverly illustrated with colorful animals that are composed of heart shapes, and we’ve used it to facilitate a variety of activities through the Detroit Zoological Society’s education department. Most recently, our team prototyped an activity based on the book’s illustrations to use in our monthly programming at local pediatric hospitals. Staff or volunteers will read the book and talk about the animals, shapes and colors, depending on the age of the audience.

After reading the book, the children are provided heart shapes made from construction paper. They are various sizes, colors and configurations. The children can use the hearts we provide or create their own as they construct animals out of the shapes. The activity builds spatial relations, pattern building, color blending and fine motor skills.

The young men at Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility we work with year-round, use the book as inspiration as they create Valentine’s Day cards for children at local pediatric hospitals. We bring a variety of paper with us and the boys create animals out of the heart shapes for the front of the card. On the inside they write thoughtful messages for the recipients. Providing opportunities for these young men to think about other people in a compassionate way and make a positive impact through something they’ve created leaves a lasting impression on them.

“My Heart is Like a Zoo” is available at most area libraries to borrow or at local bookstores if you’d like to bring it home forever. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

– Claire Lannoye-Hall is a curator of education for the Detroit Zoological Society.