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Students put on a conservation town hall

Posted by: Rob Goehrke, Education

One of my favorite things about working at Woodland Park Zoo is bringing amazing partnerships into the classroom. This season, our ZooCrew middle school program partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT)--a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife conservation partner--in some exciting ways.

While deciding which animal to focus on this season, we came across a new curriculum guide that SLT put together in partnership with Facing the Future. With our snow leopard cubs just born months earlier, it seemed like a great fit.

Curriculum from

During our first lesson, the ZooCrew students learned that snow leopards are a top predator and a keystone species—they have a much larger impact on their ecosystem than some other species, which makes their protection even more important.

During the next few weeks, the students learned about different types of people involved in protecting snow leopards—from conservationists and national parks to craftspeople and hunters. A sustainable solution would have to be a win for everyone involved. It was time to call a town hall meeting.

Because the Snow Leopard Trust is based here in Seattle, we were fortunate to have one of their staff come visit one of our ZooCrew programs. Snow Leopard Trust’s Marissa participated with the youth in their mock-town hall meeting. After introducing themselves (as a craftsperson, hunter, etc.) and their goals and needs, students formed alliances and drafted proposals on how to help both snow leopards and themselves. After presenting their proposals, a heated discussion ensued, until they finally reached consensus on a deal they could all agree to. Don't miss the brief video above for highlights from the meeting.

Students learning about the Snow Leopard Trust’s mission and work. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

After the town hall meeting wrapped up, Marissa shared with the youth how the Snow Leopard Trust was doing this same work in real life, bringing people with different goals and needs on board with protecting snow leopards in Asia.

One group of youth decided to do a fundraiser to help snow leopards for their Conservation and Career Project, a staple of the ZooCrew experience. Marissa brought them ornaments that were handmade by the very same Mongolian craftspeople they had just imagined themselves to be during the town hall exercise. The Snow Leopard Trust gives the craftspeople an international market so they can make a sustainable income that’s not based on hunting snow leopards. They even get a bonus if no one in their town kills a snow leopard during the year. These youth were so excited to be part of a real solution that they sold almost 50 ornaments, raising over $200!

Ornaments sold by students. Images courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust.

Since my area of expertise is youth development, it is so helpful to partner with global conservation leaders who are connected to real conservation work here in Seattle and around the world, and can inspire these kids. Thanks, Snow Leopard Trust!