Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer

Frequently Searched Terms

Student holding up award and smiling at Awards Ceremony Mount Pleasant Elementary School K 2 2019

How Winners Are Chosen

How do we win?

Contest Metrics

Throughout the contest, there is likely one point or another where your group will wonder ”How can we win?” Well, we are here to share some of the considerations the Philadelphia Zoo staff and the panel of judges will make when choosing the finalists for the contest.

Firstly, it is important to ensure that all required components and considerations have been included in your projects.

The goal of the UNLESS Contest is to generate, encourage, and amplify ideas that help make the world a healthier place for all living things. In addition to the contest requirements,  we want to see your creativity, collaboration, connection, scale, and impact! Therefore, along the way, be sure to record as much information as possible.

Once we have your final submission, we will look at the whole story – not just individual pieces. If you would like to preview the final report, click here. We know that not everything you try will be successful, and that’s ok! We still want to know how you’ve made an effort for wildlife, even if it didn’t work out. Here is an example of just one way this might play out:

In the example above, the initial results of the third project were much smaller than those of the second project. However, our judges will see how the third project was able to impact the wider community and not just students in the school. This project also focuses on reducing waste, which is much more beneficial for the environment than recycling alone. This project, while technically less impactful by the numbers, is more likely to make it into the final round of judging. The most successful projects showcase how the students were able to bring about significant, long-lasting change in their community. That means that it doesn’t actually matter where they start – what matters is how far they go. If you’d like to see the whole judging rubric we use,  click here.


Judging Process

Upon submitting your final report, a team of staff at the Zoo will then look at your project and determine the finalists. The reports of the finalists will then be sent to external judges to choose the winning teams. The judges of the Contest are a diverse group of people from around the country. They are conservation-minded, community-focused individuals who are connected to the UNLESS Contest in some way. Winning teams will be announced at the Closing Ceremony in the Spring.

Important Considerations:

Stay Positive

Environmental problems can be very frustrating. When we care about something, it’s very easy to judge others or get angry. Even though we might be tempted to place blame or make assumptions, it’s important to try to stay positive and open-minded. People will likely respond more to us when we are friendly, approachable, and understanding. The more we accuse or scare people, the less likely they are to contribute to create change. That’s why is so important to work and collaborated with people, and to stay positive, understanding, and empowering!

Have Conversations

When brainstorming how you are going to solve your challenge, make sure to talk to different people. If your project involves your local area, speak with people who live there. When having these conversations, remember that everyone’s experiences lead them to form their opinions and habits. Sometimes, it may seem like people don’t care. Believe it or not, though, there are lots of reasons why people don’t act as much as we’d like them to. In order to really understand what humans do that can be damaging to the environment, we must also ask why they do them and who​ these actions impact. Not everyone has the same experiences growing up, and they may feel differently than you. Good conservation solutions rely on considering different fields of study, perspectives, and identities. Talking and listening to people is key to figuring out how everyone can fit sustainability into their own lives!

Make Social Media Your friend

The internet, especially social media sites, provide a great opportunity to reach a large number of people. Consider using media technology to spread your message even further! Make sure to use hashtags like #UNLESSContest, #phillyzoo, and #philadelphiazoo. Tag us @philadelphiazoo and tweet at us @phillyzoo!

Believe In Yourself!

You have the opportunity to change the world! You may think you’re too small, too young, too unimportant, or too invisible to help or reach enough people to make real change. The truth is that all the positive changes that have ever happened in the world started somewhere. You can make it happen! Always believe in yourself and know that you are making a difference!