The Zoo Poo and You Studio is a project developed by Melbourne DESIS Lab. Inspired by educator and systems thinker Linda Booth Sweeney: “Education in how living systems function should be a fundamental part of 21st century schooling and anyone’s lifelong learning plan,”¹ The Zoo Poo and You studio aims to engage people in learning about and understanding the complexity of ecological systems and how they are entangled with and impacted by human activity.

The Melbourne Zoo is a significant living case study of zero waste to landfill practice. The Zoo waste management team regularly provides tours to local government and business groups. However this amazing story is largely unknown to everyday visitors of the zoo.

Using mapping and visualisation to make sense of the flows of materials and waste and the interaction of people, students have gained insight into the successes of a relatively enclosed system, including the onsite composting of organic materials, but also the challenges of a broader society operating under a different paradigm transgressing the ideals of the zoo practicing as a zero waste to landfill enterprise.

From these insights students are developing interpretive and playful artefacts to educate zoo visitors in the fascinating behind the scenes of the zoo.

Students used mapping and visualisation to make sense of the flows of materials and waste and onsite composting of organic materials. But also the interaction of zoo visitors in the system that conflicts with broader society operating under a different paradigm of waste management. These insights helped students to consider how they might communicate these rich complexities and hidden stories to the public.

Students developed interpretive and playful interfaces and activities to educate zoo visitors in the fascinating behind the scenes sustainability of the zoo.

The proposed projects were as diverse as playgrounds (Slide and Grind by Michaela McCaw), children’s play zones (Compost Factory by Hana Nadira), an app that supports adventure and discovery through the zoo (Waste Matters by Manuely Avila), new educational cafe centres, sculptural and informative compost bins (by Yukie Ueyama) and diverse forms of digital games and tactile interactive displays (Turning a New Leaf by Erin Tan, Kirsten Carless and Jennifer Mai).

Vist the Melbourne DESIS Lab here