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Tiger in trail at Philly Zoo Big Cat Falls

UNLESS Contest FAQ

General Questions

Are there any fees associated with the UNLESS Contest?

We are pleased to offer this experience to all our participants free of charge, thanks to generous funding from the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation.

How does our project help animals?

You can directly help these animals by changing your habits to save water, energy, and waste, creating action and awareness, and by helping preserve habitats. By spreading the word, you can encourage more people change their habits and take action as well! The less resources we use, the more wildlife and habitats we save!  In addition, the stories of our focus animals match those to the wildlife and that live right in our backyards. While learning more about your focus animal, consider the wildlife native to your area and community, and work to conserve them while also making an impact for wildlife everywhere.

Can we choose more than one animal or challenge to focus on?

We would like you to focus on just one animal and just one challenge. We know it can be difficult to choose, so we recommend having your class vote to choose. This doesn’t mean that you need to ignore all other animals or all other challenges, as they are often related!

Can friends or colleagues from another school help?

Due to the structure of the contest, teams are usually restricted to a group of students in a single school. If you have friends who are interested in helping, encourage them to talk to their teachers about signing up for the contest!

Contest Structure & Timeline

Why are there different sets of tasks?

We’ve split up the tasks into 3 different sets in order to give you a sense of timing and pace. Each time you complete a set, you should move on to the next set. Completing tasks on this list is how you will gauge your progress throughout the contest.

Do we need to do anything to prepare for the introduction call or the field trip?

Students do not need to do anything to prepare for the introduction call session. However, please test out your equipment in advance to make sure it works (you can also schedule a test session with us if you’d like). For the field trip, students should be prepared to check in with their Zoo Expert about their progress in the contest and ask questions they may have.

We’re ready to schedule our field trip. What do I do?

After you schedule your Zoom call, you will receive an email with the link to schedule your virtual field trip. If you need assistance, please email us.

We need to cancel or reschedule our introduction call or field trip.

No problem. Please follow the directions in your confirmation email or Send us an email with the details of your current reservation and your proposed new date or time. We will let you know if it is available.

What are badges?

Badges are a way to mark your team’s progress throughout the contest. They are earned by completing each set of tasks and submitting your progress. Every time a team earns a badge, you will receive an email. The more you earn, the closer you are to finishing the contest!

How can we prove that we made an impact either by saving resources, changing policy or awareness, or protecting or restoring habitats?

If you’ve made an effort to spread the word and try to make change, there are many ways to show it! Keep track of everything you do. For example, keep track of the number of letters you write, social media posts you share, posters you make, events you host, seeds you distribute, pounds of trash you clean up, bird houses installed, etc. In addition, if you are making efforts to reduce energy, conserve water, protect habitat, or restore habitat, there are online tools that can be used to calculate how many kW were saved, how many gallons of water were conserved, and how many acres of land were protected, etc. We also love seeing you in action, so make sure to share pictures and videos with your final submission!

Final Reports & Judging

The final submission is due next week and I am not ready. Help!

We completely understand how hectic the school year can be. If you are worried about meeting the deadline for submission, let us know, and we will see what we can do to accommodate you.

What do we absolutely have to do in order to be considered?

You must submit a final report – that’s it. That being said, you will have a much higher likelihood of becoming a finalist if you follow the step-by-step guide to help you move through the contest.

How are the winners chosen?

At the end of the contest, your team will submit a final report that includes everything you’ve worked on throughout the year. A team of staff at the Zoo will then look at your project and determines the finalists. Then, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners are chosen by a group of judges. The judges of the Contest are a diverse group of people from around the country. They are conservation-minded, community-focused individuals who are connected to the UNLESS Contest in some way.

Are we all judged together?

Each group is placed into a category with other groups close to their grade level. The groupings are split into K-2nd grade, 3rd grade-5th grade, 6th grade -8th grade, and 9th grade-12th grade. A first, second, and third place prize will be given to the highest rated projects for each age group.

How will we know if we are a finalist? How will we know if we win?

Finalists will be contacts directly up to 4 weeks after the final submission deadline. Winners will be announced during the final Celebration Ceremony toward the end of the school year. Following the ceremony, an email will be sent out to all participants announcing the winners as well.

What is the Unless Contest Celebration?

At the conclusion of the Contest, all finalists are invited to another free trip to the Zoo as a celebration. During the celebration, you will find out where you placed within your age group and, if you won something, receive your prize. You will also be able to enjoy the Zoo for the day. Please note that while admission is complimentary for all participants, transportation is not included and must be covered by the school.

What can we win?

Top winners of the contest will receive a physical award as well as a monetary prize, which will be delivered in the form of a check to your school.

Ask Us Anything

If you’ve read through the FAQs and checked out our other resources and still have questions, send us an email at unlesscontest@phillyzoo.org.