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Transformative Journeys: How 33,000 Students Found Their Path at the Minnesota Zoo


The Minnesota Zoo stands as more than a mere attraction; it is a vital community resource committed to conserving wildlife through education and engagement. At the heart of its mission is the profound impact on the lives of students, enhancing our work with a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Each interaction is designed to foster a deeper connection between people, animals, and the natural environment, illustrating the zoo’s role as a pivotal educational platform.

The ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge

Celebrating a decade of innovation, the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge at the Minnesota Zoo offers a unique educational opportunity that merges real-world problem solving with academic principles. This award-winning initiative encourages students from elementary to high school to apply science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to devise practical solutions for challenges faced by the zoo. As part of this annual event, students collaborate in teams to create and present their projects, with finalists showcasing their work to zoo staff and professional engineers in March.

Educational Impact and Growth

Since its inception, the ZOOMS program has dramatically expanded, reaching over 775 teachers and 33,000 students across 12 states and two countries. Starting with a single school in 2014, it now includes 68 educational institutions. This growth is a testament to the program’s success and its ability to resonate with both students and educators. By providing a platform for hands-on learning and creative expression, the zoo not only aids teachers in delivering compelling educational experiences but also plays a crucial role in shaping the futures of young learners.

Nurturing Future Innovators

In today’s digital age, where technology often dominates, initiatives like the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge are essential for encouraging interpersonal skills and real-world engagement among youth. The program not only helps students explore STEM fields but also promotes essential skills such as teamwork and creative problem-solving. Observing the students during the ZOOMS exhibition, one can see the spark of potential as they engage in presenting their ideas and exploring new possibilities, possibly igniting a passion for future careers in STEM.


The ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge exemplifies the power of collaborative education. Supported by Flint Hills Resources and the dedicated staff at the Minnesota Zoo, the program flourishes under the guidance of committed teachers and the enthusiastic participation of students. It stands as a beacon of educational excellence and innovation, making the Minnesota Zoo the largest environmental education destination in the state. We invite you to witness this transformative experience firsthand at the upcoming ZOOMS exhibition this March, where the true impact of these educational adventures is visibly reflected in the joy and excitement of all participants.