Let’s Play: Conservation Education Opportunities for the Potawatomi Zoo

Claire Squire

Potawatomizoo1
Potawatomi Zoo, South Bend, IN

The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, IN is keen to adopt conservation education initiatives to support a business ethos of sustainability as they approach a five-year accreditation review from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Because AZA-accredited institutions are gateways for millions of people to discover the diversity of the natural world, the organization encourages its institutions to serve as leaders in not only wildlife conservation but also environmental stewardship. AZA-accredited institutions are uniquely placed to make an impact on their patrons’ everyday environmentally responsible behaviors, especially if the institution models sustainable practices. Their model can engage patrons to uptake post-visit environmental actions.

In my research, I have: worked with Potawatomi Zoo staff to co-create for a desired future of sustainability, surveyed visiting families to the Potawatomi Zoo, observed visitors at other zoos, and conducted a literature review. Now, I have created a plan for the Potawatomi Zoo including design ideas to increase conservation education—that engages children of all ages in multi-sensory play—within the following areas: exhibits, concessions, gift shops, and restrooms. Ultimately, while the plan will mature the zoo into a model for environmental stewardship, it could also mature the zoo into an agent for patron behavioral change.

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