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UNLESS Contest Celebrates 12 Years of Conservation

For over a decade, the Albert M Greenfield Foundation UNLESS Contest has empowered thousands of K-12 students to tackle a conservation challenge in their lives, inspire others to join with them, and work together to support wildlife.

In this year long project-based program, students work directly in line with state and national standards, think critically about an environmental issue that is impacting global and local wild animals as well as people, and collaborate with their communities to make a positive change.

To focus their efforts, students concentrate on a species such as Rodrigues Fruit Bats, Golden Coin Turtles, African Lions, Golden Lion Tamarins, or Indian White-Eyes. These are example animals that have been negatively impacted by the effects of climate change and human activity and that the Philadelphia Zoo supports through various conservation programs. Students were asked to draw parallels between these animals and their local species, to understand the connectivity of animals and the challenges they face, and to demonstrate how local changes can make global impacts.

As they worked on their projects, groups were invited to participate in virtual classes, visit the Zoo, and to build a relationship with Zoo staff. In March, they submitted a summary detailing the efforts they made to save energy, conserve water, protect habitats, reduce waste, and advocate for change. Final project reports were reviewed by Zoo staff and assessed by a panel of independent judges.

In this twelfth year of the contest, over 2,000 students spent their school year working to support wildlife and stop climate change. They spread awareness through commercials, announcements, YouTube videos, artwork, books, and games. They held ‘no paper’ days, initiated plastic recycling programs in their schools, hosted clothing drives, installed water bottle filling stations, built habitats with recycled materials, planted numerous flowers and trees, reached out to local representatives, organized an impressive number of fundraisers, and more.

Students supported local species such as Eastern Box Turtles, Bald Eagles, Diamondback Terrapins, Bog Turtles, Monarch Butterflies, Little Brown Bats, Carolina Wrens, Big Brown Bats, and more. Through their collective efforts, they reached 160,000 people and counting! These students truly exemplified the importance of continued effort in conservation work, as many groups mentioned how they plan to continue working after the contest and how their projects could have a long-lasting impact on the people and wildlife around them.

At the end of the year on May 18, over 500 participants and their supporters came together at the Philadelphia Zoo to celebrate the amazing achievements of these students and to recognize groups that especially used their voice, demonstrated creativity, showed perseverance, and spread positivity. These young conservationists are an inspiration, and provide a reminder of power that people have and the changes we can collectively make to have a positive impact on the people and wildlife that we share our world with.

To see this year’s UNLESS Contest winners, click here.

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Support Our Conservation Efforts

Your gift to Philadelphia Zoo makes a difference for animals here and around the world and directly supports programs like the annual UNLESS Contest.