King Conservation Science Scholars

King Conservation Science Scholars

The Chicago Zoological Society’s King Conservation Science Scholars Program is an engaging way for teens to learn more about animals and conservation, network with others and make a difference in their communities while preparing for college and future careers. Through interactive workshops, activities, interpretation, research opportunities and community action projects, King Conservation Science Scholars  gain knowledge along with college readiness, leadership, and career skills. With the support of zoo professionals and community partners, participants will be encouraged to pursue their chosen careers with a conservation mindset. 

Students fulfill the program’s 100 volunteer hours annually by choosing workshops and other opportunities that fit their schedules and interests (full Program Requirements can be found here). Workshops and activities will take place both in Chicago (specific locations to be determined) and at Brookfield Zoo. A series of Foundation Courses are required in the first year including topics like Diversity Awareness, Introduction to Conservation and Customer Service. After that, students can select from a variety of workshops to attend within the categories of Science, Environmental Education, College Prep and Career Readiness (some examples are below).

After at least one year of successful participation, King Conservation Science Scholars are invited to apply for college scholarships and paid positions at Brookfield Zoo, which will be available only to program participants. All these experiences culminate to prepare students for college, to apply for jobs, develop their own action projects, and to become leaders in their communities. King Scholars who are required to submit community service hours by their school may use volunteer hours performed at the zoo, as deemed fit by their school's specifications. 

Available Workshops for King Conservation Science Scholars
  • Conservation Hot Topics: The Conservation Hot Topics series covers a wide variety of issues facing our Earth’s climate. From larger ideas like Climate Change to more detailed ‘hot topics’ on the Palm Oil Crisis and Coral Bleaching, this series will take you through these ideas, step-by-step, allowing for a clear understanding of them.
  • Introduction to Animal Observations: Introduction to Animal Observations will train you in different methods of observing our animals at Brookfield Zoo. This can lead to doing an Independent Research Project, Zookeeper Shadowing, and great experience for working in the field with wildlife in the future.
  • Destination Station: Interpretation Basics: The Destination Station series focuses on training you further in interpretation and gives you more detailed information about the animals in Brookfield Zoo’s Collection. Interpretation is how we engage with our guests and will allow you to grow vastly in your communication/public speaking and customer service skills.
  • Career & College Readiness Courses: We offer a wide variety of College and Career Readiness Courses to allow for your personal growth and development. Our courses will aid in creating the perfect resume or college application, and will give you great tips on topics from applying for financial aid and how to prepare for an interview. One of our sessions, called Someone You Should Know, introduces you to many different individuals (Dr. Stuart Strahl, CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society; Dr. Kate Evans, Co-founder of Elephants for Africa; and many more!) who have already make their mark in their field.
Available Opportunities for King Conservation Science Scholars
  • Exhibit Interpretation: Program participants learn how to effectively interact with our guests at different exhibits throughout the zoo; showing their animal knowledge but also spreading conservation messages.
  • Special Events: Participants can volunteer at a variety of special events such as Summer Nights, Boo at the Zoo, and Holiday Magic.
  • Behind the Scenes Tours: Participants have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of animals through these unique behind the scenes opportunities.
  • Keeper Shadowing: The King Conservation Science Scholars program is definitely a great way to start learning what it takes to be an animal care specialist; more commonly known as a zookeeper.
  • Research & Community Action Projects: King Conservation Science Scholars are encouraged to pursue independent research projects under the guidance of our team and the collaboration of staff in various areas around the zoo. Areas for independent projects may include but are not limited to Animal Programs and Conservation Education.
  • Field Trips: In this program, teens will get the opportunity to attend field trips to other zoological institutions. We also do college visits as part of college readiness requirement. The goal is to keep participants immersed in the zoo culture and thinking about furthering their interests in conservation topics.
  • King Conservation Science Scholars Teen Advisory Council: This is a unique opportunity for participants to develop their leadership skills within the program. Members of the council help plan events such as the Teen Conservation Leadership Conference; and work together with staff to suggest improvements to the King Conservation Science Scholars Program.
The King Conservation Science Scholar Perspective

“The Scholars Program has been a very accepting place for people with disabilities. I have autism and sometimes I have a hard time talking to people and doing other things. It helped a lot with my social skills. I have friends in the Scholars Program now.” Graduating King Scholar

“…We are experiencing a dream come true to observe the personal growth and advancement of our daughter, and at the same time know that she can, does, and will affect the lives of those around her in her future endeavors as she moves into adulthood.” Parent of King Scholar

“I was built up to be a conservation leader, and found not only my calling to advocate for our natural environment, but also the confidence and skills to follow that dream in the first place. This program was an inspiring, cultivating, and life-changing experience.” Graduating King Scholar

Benefits to being a King Conservation Science Scholar
  • Participants who successfully complete at least one year of the program are eligible to apply for college scholarships and jobs at CZS that are open ONLY to former participants!
  • Many schools and clubs accept volunteer hours from our program for service credit.
  • Develop important professional, social, and public speaking skills through hands-on, real-world experience.
  • Free admission to various cultural institutions around the city for each volunteer and his/her immediate family.
  • Build your science and leadership skills.
  • Build your resume and prepare yourself for your college and job searches!
  • Increase your knowledge of animals and conservation.
  • Gain confidence!
  • Meet people with similar interests from all over the Chicagoland area and make lasting friendships.
  • Discounts on Zoo food and merchandise.
  • Become a conservation leader today!
Eligibility Requirements
  • This is a High School program. Applicants must have completed 8th grade by the time they start the program. We actively recruit incoming Freshmen through incoming Juniors.
  • Applicants must have a one letter of recommendation from a teachers and/or coach.
  • Applicants must write a 500+ word essay in response to the prompt: What animal can you most relate to? What characteristics or traits do you share?
Useful Links:

Apply Now!

Applications are accepted year-round. Once we've reviewed your application, we will reach out to you regarding next steps. Applications must include your letter of recommendation and completed 500+ word essay in response to the prompt: What animal can you most relate to? What characteristics or traits do you share? When you are ready, you can submit your application online:


Click here to Apply Online


Or you can download a PDF version:   King Conservation Science Scholars Application and mail it to us at: 

Brookfield Zoo
King Conservation Science Scholars
3300 Golf Rd. 
Brookfield, IL. 60513



King Conservation Science Scholars

Have questions?
Click here for Scholars Frequently Asked Questions!



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