Outreach Initiatives

Local and Regional Community Events

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) participates in many community events throughout the year. An integral aspect, the Berman Academy for Humane Education offers information such as the Shades of Green Guides that encourage people to think about their impact on the Earth and provides them with tools that help to lessen their ecological footprint.

City Critters

The DZS received a 2010 Significant Achievement in Education award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for its City Critters outreach program. The award, presented at the AZA Annual Conference in Houston, Texas, recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design.

City Critters enables children to develop an awareness of the animals that share their neighborhoods. Learning about these creatures enables children to better understand and appreciate them. Children are encouraged to study and enjoy wildlife from a distance. This program teaches strategies to peacefully co-exist.

City Critters also includes a discussion on responsible pet care. Children are taught that their pets rely upon them to provide for all of their needs, including food, fresh water, exercise and love. The importance of always having proper identification on their pet is also emphasized.

The Zoo works with local universities to train pre-service student teachers in humane education. As part of the training, the university students learn how to facilitate City Critters and help us to reach thousands of elementary school students each year.

The City Critters outreach program is offered to underserved schools, including Detroit Public Schools, throughout the year.

City Critters Goals
  • To promote an ethic of gentleness for other living creatures
  • To create better awareness and empathy of wildlife that share our environments
  • To promote appropriate pet choice and care (along with our colleagues at local humane societies)


City Critters Key Concepts
  • All animals are remarkable
  • Humans have changed the natural environment. Some animals have adapted to this changed environment and reside in urban areas
  • Wild animals are different than domestic animals
  • Wild animals should be enjoyed from a distance so as not to disturb them
  • All animals (including humans) have similar needs – food, water, shelter, and appropriate social and physical environments
  • Our pets rely upon us to provide for all of the their needs
  • Backyards and Schoolyards for Wildlife can be created to develop wildlife-friendly areas.
  • Discovery of injured wildlife should be reported to a trusted adult who can then reach out to a local rehabilitator or shelter


Kids for Critters Clubs

Children participate in activities at their school throughout the school year. Children learn that one individual can make a difference, and working together we can change the world.

This program is especially important because the members of the club become agents of change within their schools. Kids listen to other kids. The Kids for Critters model presents being kind to animals as fun and “cool.”

Staff facilitate activities at Kids for Critters Clubs, providing direction and motivation for children as they complete activities related to animal issues. Kids have been involved in making posters to hang in their schools, collecting used towels and blankets for local humane societies, making dog biscuits and kitty herb pots, and preparing for Be Kind to Animals Week. Individual schools have done an assortment of other activities including creating pet care brochures, writing skits about rescued animals and making presentations to younger children in their schools.

The Kids for Critters club engages children in three areas:

  • Personal Choices – making choices for a softer footprint.
  • Helping our Community – improving our community for all living creatures.
  • Helping the World – Celebrating and saving our earth’s biodiversity.


Kids for Critters have several different messages to impart on others:

  • Pet Care – Kids for Critters teach what it means to be a responsible pet guardian, including providing proper care and love for an animal’s entire life.
  • Humans and Other Animals – Kids can encourage other kids to investigate and question how animals are used in entertainment, including circuses, rodeos and television. These activities may be fun for some people, but they are definitely not fun for the animals.
  • We Can Make A Difference – Children get involved in activities to help animals – not only in their homes, but also in their communities. Kids can help animal shelters with activities such as collecting towels, creating cat toys or making dog biscuits. They can also help animals at home by creating backyards for wildlife.