Zoo program recognized with national award


POWELL — The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recently announced that the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium received a Significant Achievement recognition in its Education Award for the Teen Eco Summit. The AZA Education Award recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design, judging programs on their ability to promote conservation knowledge, attitudes and behavior, show innovation, and measure success.

“It is important for AZA and its community to recognize excellence, and that is what our Honors and Award program does,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “Congratulations to the professionals at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on their recognition. AZA is lucky to count you among its community!”

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Teen Eco Summit is a free, student-driven program where teams create Conservation Action Plans to help create sustainability and conservation-based change within their schools and communities. The Teen Eco Summit began in 2017 and has since doubled in size. The Teen Eco Summit is held in November at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and this year will host over 300 students. During the summit, global experts will talk to students about conservation, sustainability, and leadership, and the students will work with peers from around Ohio to brainstorm potential solutions to real world conservation challenges.

Back at their schools, students then work together in teams composed of four to seven high school students and one advisor to prepare the Conservation Action Plans to drive change within their schools and communities. This program continues throughout the year with participants connecting with community partners to learn vital skills that will help their projects. Participants also have the opportunity to apply for grant funding. The Summit concludes in the spring with a celebration event during which they share their projects with their peers and community partners, providing the opportunity to learn from others and plan for the future.

Examples of projects have included:

• Awareness campaign on the impacts of idling cars in the school pick up line (Columbus Academy).

• Sustainable farm focusing on pollinator plots, pumpkins, and Christmas trees (Gahanna Employability Adult Readiness).

• Upcycling clothing (Delaware Hayes) and clothing swaps (Upper Arlington).

• Plastic grocery bag collection to create “thread” to crochet mats for unhoused populations (Hilliard Davidson).

“We are proud that the Teen Eco Summit is being recognized for this award, especially since this program represents the true heart of our mission of Empowering People. Saving Wildlife. It is thanks to the strong collaboration between the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the participating students, their schools, and other community leaders and organizations that this program is so successful. We continue to be inspired by the creative ideas that the students develop into actions that are making a big impact for the future of wildlife,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Schmid.

Teen Eco Summit is made possible by presenting sponsor Battelle and generously supported by Fifth Third Bank. Battelle is an internationally recognized science and innovation center in Central Ohio, and its generous support funds the event and some of the grants provided to students to execute their projects. Organizations including Fifth Third Bank, AEP Ohio, Kroger and The Ohio State University have also contributed student project grants totaling over $60,000 over the past six years.

For additional updates about the Columbus Zoo, events, and more, be sure to follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok, and visit us at ColumbusZoo.org.

Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

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