King Conservation Leadership Academy - Community Engagement 

KCLA-Logo.JPGThe Chicago Zoological Society offers free community-based programming for all ages through our King Conservation Leadership Academy Community Engagement team. The programs of Zoo Adventure Passport! (ZAP!) and King Conservation Science Explorers (King Explorers) both welcome individuals and families from across Chicagoland to participate in nature-based learning that cultivates science skills and conservation awareness as they connect to the environment, our communities, and each other.

Families that register for, and attend, multiple eligible programs provided by the Community Engagement team of the King Conservation Leadership Academy can earn access to special invite-only programs and events in the community and at the zoo throughout the year.

Click here to view our calendar and register for a program



Project-base learning
for Middle School Children (Grades 6-8)

King Conservation Science Explorers (King Explorers) are creative problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and the change-makers of tomorrow.

Our CZS staff members create opportunities for King Explorers to engage in numerous iterative processes, hands-on activities, and various field experiences that highlight how the S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) fields inform conservation efforts at the local and global level.

To support this, experiential learning opportunities for King Explorers may include:

• Investigating local urban ecosystems by participating in community science projects;

• Exploring outdoor spaces through field trips around the Chicagoland area;

• Learn about and interact with Brookfield Zoo animals and their care specialists;

• Connecting with local, national, and/or global conservation projects;

• Explore future opportunities available within the S.T.E.A.M. fields.

Three rotating year-long themes highlight important environmental concepts, and the related projects help King Explorers continue to foster:

• Collaborative goal setting and plan development that highlights personal skills and interests;

• Effective communication skills to establish positive relationships and share unique perspectives;

• Participation in efforts to address the need for conservation awareness, education, and action.

With the support of CZS staff, King Explorers help organize a culminating event to showcase their respective projects while providing family-friendly activities centered on the annual theme of the program. This allows King Conservation Science Explorers to share their knowledge, talents, and blossoming leadership skills.

King Explorers are also encouraged to also participate in Zoo Adventure Passport! (ZAP!) programming. Volunteering time to assist CZS staff within ZAP! programs can be documented for community service hours.

King Explorers are well-prepared to be successful King Conservation Science Scholars as high schoolers.

Programs offered: September through June

Click here to view our calendar and register for a program


Family-based Learning Opportunities
for all ages (children and adults)

Zoo Adventure Passport! (ZAP!) programs are intentionally designed to be multi-generational experiential learning opportunities that foster connections between participants, wildlife, and nature.

These programs use a variety of developmentally-appropriate strategies, techniques, and delivery models to bring awareness to actionable conservation-based content and concepts while building empathy for all living things.

ZAP! consists of several programmatic structures, which currently or are planned to include:

• ZAP! Conservation through Gardening – ZCTG:

Exploring how sustainable garden practices and everyday actions at home and in your community can impact the environment, foster connections with others, and support local wildlife.

Programs offered: March through October

• ZAP! Storytime at the Zoo – ZSZ:

Featuring guest storytellers from our communities as they share nature-themed stories and songs that support early literacy development while joining us in interactive zoo activities.

Programs offered: June through August

• ZAP! Conservation Science Adventures – ZCSA (Starting Fall 2023):

Celebrating urban green spaces and wildlife through guided explorations of parks, community gardens, preserves, and other natural spaces around the Chicagoland area.

Programs offered: Year-round

• ZAP! Conservationists in Action – ZCIA (Starting Fall 2023):

Connecting participants with individuals doing conservation work locally, nationally, and globally – aligning with the celebrations of various History and Heritage Months.

Programs offered: Year-round

• ZAP! Conservation Science Foundations – ZCSF (Starting Fall 2023):

Introducing conservation content and concepts through structured and unstructured play; this series allows for our King Explorers to build contemporary leadership skills while working alongside CZS staff in the facilitation of learning opportunities for members of their respective communities as the topics covered align with the yearlong theme from KCSE programs.

Programs offered: September through June

Because ZAP! programs are intended to serve multiple age-groups, our staff designs ZAP! programming to gradually foster:

• Independence and leadership skills among individuals ages 11 and up;

• Guided inquiry and communication skills among children ages 8 and up;

• Foundations of observational and reasoning skills in younger children, with parent or caregiver support.

ZAP! families, with children finishing Grade 5 and/or older than age 11, are encouraged to have eligible children join the King Conservation Science Explorers.

Click here to view our calendar and register for a program


KCLA Community Outreach

The Chicago Zoological Society is pleased to consider requests for participation in various events in and around your community – especially those near the programmatic offerings of the King Conservation Leadership Academy Community Engagement team.

Due to the volume of requests, we regret that we are unable to accommodate all organizations that ask for and merit our assistance. Requests are processed on the second Thursday of every month for consideration for the subsequent two months. Staff availability is limited, and we retain sole discretion on the events that we are able to attend.

We highly encourage requests to be made at least six to eight, but no more than twelve, weeks prior to your event.

Check back soon for access to our updated link and form!



Questions? Contact us at


All programming presented by the King Conservation Leadership Academy Community Engagement team of the Chicago Zoological Society aims to provide learning opportunities that support lifelong S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) education. This is done by supporting individuals in:

• Developing interest in environmental science and conservation;
• Understanding environmental science and conservation knowledge;
• Engaging in scientific reasoning related to environmental science and conservation;
• Reflecting on their own process of learning about environmental science and conservation;
• Engaging in scientific practices used in environmental science and conservation; and
• Identifying as a member of the global pro-environmental community by contributing to environmental science and conservation action in our programs and in their everyday lives.

The Community Engagement programs, which may also be referred to as the Early Learner programs, of the King Conservation Leadership Academy are made possible, in part, with support from: the King Family Foundation, BNSF Railway Foundation, FedEx Corporation, the Julius N. Frankel Foundation, the Gerald A. and Karen A. Kolschowsky Foundation Inc., the Edmond and Alice Opler Foundation, Peoples Gas Community Fund, the Schmidgall Family Foundation, the Dr. Scholl Foundation, and Wintrust Financial Corporation.

The King Conservation Leadership Academy is a programmatic suite that serves individuals from 'Cradle to Gray,' and it is just one of the many offerings from the Education & Community Engagement department of the Chicago Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo.