Professional Development

Professional Development

Engage Your Students in the 2022 STEM Challenge: Extreme Zoo Makeover:
A STEM Approach to Habitat Design

Utilizing Your Local Ecosystems as Laboratories for Investigations

Wade Institute Join the Wade Institute for Science Education and our collaborating partners, The Lloyd Center for the Environment and Buttonwood Park Zoo, for our 2022 STEM Challenge “Extreme Zoo Makeover: A STEM Approach to Habitat Design”. The Challenge will engage students in grades 5-8 in a unique experience that integrates science and engineering concepts in a series of inquiry-based investigations that lead up to a student-driven challenge. Elementary and high schools are welcome to participate in the challenge.

Students will be given the following challenge: “Your local Zoo needs a makeover! As we learn more about animals’ needs, we’ve realized the Zoo’s old habitats are no longer adequate and it’s up to you and your engineering team to redesign them. You must find a way to 1) design habitats that meet the specific needs of the animals for which you are designing them, 2) engineer an enrichment item for your animal species that will stimulate natural behaviors, and 3) create an interpretive sign and interactive features that will engage the public in your animal habitat.”

The Challenge will include:

  • A Professional Development session for educators planning to implement the challenge in their classrooms.
  • A curriculum guide providing background information and inquiry-based investigations that can be used to lead up to the Challenge.
  • A materials kit for implementing the challenge in your classroom.

Working in small groups, students will create a model zoo habitat for the animal of their choice, a piece of animal enrichment, and interpretive signage. At the end of the Challenge students will present their models to their peers, and invited guests, such as representatives of the participating STEM businesses, members of the STEM Advisory Council and educators/staff from the partner organizations. They will choose a presentation type such as a demonstration, video, storyboard, puppet show or skit to present their work. Their work will also be displayed on the social media platforms of the participating organizations and there may be opportunities to display their work at both the Lloyd Center and the Buttonwood Park Zoo.

Wade InstituteThe curriculum packet includes information and materials that will assist participants in examining zoos from the perspective of three stakeholders: the animals, the animal caretakers, and the zoo guests. Participants can visit a zoo in person or access a livestream of an animal habitat located at a zoo to use as their background information. They will then take on the role the different stakeholders to explore the elements of a habitat and which of those elements are important and can be created in a designed habitat at a zoo, wildlife park or nature center.

The 6-hour Professional Development workshop will be offered in 2 formats: a full day in-person workshop at Buttonwood Park Zoo or a virtual workshop consisting of two 3-hour virtual sessions. During the workshop teachers will participate in the pre-challenge investigations as well as the challenge. The professional development opportunities will include extension resources they can use with their students before or after the design challenge.

Help your students rise to the MA STEM Week theme “See Yourself in STEM” as they use their STEM skills and creativity to meet the “Extreme Zoo Makeover” Challenge.  STEM Week and the STEM Week Challenges are funded by the MA Advisory Council.


Cost: FREE

Pre-Challenge Professional Development Sessions:

Wednesdays, September 21st and 28th, 3:30 PM -6:30 PM ET (virtual session)
Saturday, September 17, 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM ET (in-person session at Buttonwood Park Zoo)

All Massachusetts teachers who attend one of the Pre-Challenge workshops will receive a materials kit. The Curriculum Guide will be available for any teachers participating in the Challenge.

While we welcome out-of-state participants to join in this Challenge, funding is restricted to Massachusetts participants only, so we will not be able to provide non-Massachusetts educators with a materials kit.

Lloyd Center for Environment
Wade Institute Logo
Wade Institute
Buttonwood Park Zoo Logo
Buttonwood Park Zoo