STEM Learning in Zoos and Aquariums

The public at large place a high value on the role of zoos and aquariums in teaching children about the natural world, respect for living creatures, as a place for parents and children to discover new things together, and as an educational resource for children in the community.

Research shows that parents in particular place value on zoos and aquariums as unique venues for informal learning (Fraser and Sickler, 2008). In fact zoos and aquariums have become settings where research on approaches to facilitating Science Technology, Engineering and Math learning is thriving (Rubin and Falk, 2012 and Falk et al 2007).

The Conservation Education Committee (CEC) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) released a research agenda framework in 2010 after a thoughtful, inclusive development process that involved researchers, practitioners and evaluators. The goals of the Framework are to help those in the conservation education and communications field understand how they can contribute to a greater body of knowledge and to provide a structure for individual institution and multi‐institutional studies to be interpreted in the larger picture of what we know about zoos and aquariums, their visitors, and their community relationships. The framework also provides an opportunity for all AZA‐accredited institutions and independent researchers to become involved in social science research and to work collaboratively to enhance the impact of zoos and aquariums and the conservation field as a whole.

This page provides a brief overview of resources from related to STEM learning in zoos and aquariums, as well as links to other relevant resources and communities.

Examples of Funded Projects

These are some abstracts of projects that have been funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). To learn more about funding opportunities and deadlines, visit the Funding and Calendar pages.


Key Resources

The following papers explore the role of zoos and aquariums in the STEM learning ecosystem.


See evaluation in action by browsing the following evaluation reports from zoo and aquarium projects.


Connect with the following organizations and communities of practice to deepen your expertise, learn from colleagues in the field, and build your professional network.

See Also


Photo Credits: (1) Jessica Hosman, New England Aquarium, (2) Detroit Zoological Society, (3) Marianne Hale, San Francisco Zoo