The Pittsburgh Zoo takes care of two species of penguins in an exhibit. Can you design a zoo exhibit that will keep penguins happy?

Today we will create a zoo exhibit for penguins, both in celebration of National Bird Day (Jan. 5) and of winter! Think about what penguins need to be happy; then use whatever materials you have available to make a place for penguins to live in a zoo.

Lesson Flow:

  1. Show the penguin webcam (tab 2) and introduce the topic.
  2. As a class, list the things penguins need to be happy.
  3. In teams, students will design zoo exhibits for penguins.


  • Penguin cutout
  • Coloring implements
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Paper
  • Cardstock
  • Straws
  • Craft sticks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Cardboard
  • Recyclables
  • Glue/hot glue (if needed)


  • Explore the design process
  • Fulfill criteria while staying within constraints
  • Learn about habitats and penguins

Check out the link below to the live penguin webcam at the Pittsburgh Zoo for some inspiration of what a zoo exhibit for penguins looks like! Feel free to read the facts about the penguins on that page as well.

Show the students the penguin webcam (tab 2). After they have a little time to watch the penguins at the Pittsburgh Zoo, introduce the task for the day: to design in teams a zoo exhibit for penguins. We will use the types of penguins that already exist at our Pittsburgh Zoo: macaroni and gentoo penguins. Give to each team a set of penguin cutouts. Before you let them loose to design, have a conversation about the types of resources penguins need in their habitats. Write their answers on the board. The answers should include things like:

  • Space
  • Food (mostly fish and crustaceans/ krill/ squid)
  • Water
  • Seawater to swim in
  • Rocks on which to lay their eggs (both species lay their eggs within circles of rocks)
  • Social interaction (this is why each group will get no less than 4 penguins for their exhibit from the penguin cutout document)

Students may use anything you have on hand to design their exhibits. Just ensure they are taking into account the penguin cutouts’ size and the constraints of the habitat.