Community Collaborations

Empathy Collaborative

The Empathy Collaborative began as a three-year project working in partnership with south Seattle communities and Antioch University Seattle to co-design opportunities for youth and families. The purpose of this ongoing work is to develop co-created, culturally relevant, empathy focused programming that is responsive to community interest and priorities. We do this by building long-term, authentic relationships with communities.


Listening to Community

In July 2021 Antioch University Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo began engaging with the South Seattle community through a series of listening sessions to understand priorities and interests, past experiences with the zoo, as well as what a meaningful partnership between the zoo and the community should look like. In early 2022 key leaders and service providers joined facilitated discussions with Woodland Park Zoo and Antioch University Seattle staff to explore how the zoo can meaningfully partner with the community and organizations to support the community-identified priorities.

  • August 2021 – Initial Conversations with Key Leaders
  • August 2021 – Survey Opened
  • October 2021-April 2022 – Community Listening Sessions
    • 3 Community Listening Interviews
    • 9 Community Listening Sessions
    • 51 Community Residents Participated
    • 13 Youth Participated
  • April 2022 – Service Provider Listening Sessions
    • 5 Key Leaders Conversations
    • 4 Service Provider Listening Sessions
    • 57 Service Provider and Key Leaders Participated
  • April 2022 – Surveys Closed
    • 66 Survey Participants
  • May 2022 – Zoo & You Event
  • June 2022-October 2022 – Community Share Back
  • October 2022-Present – Program Co-Design with Community Partners

You can read more about what we heard from our community in our English Community Themes Flyer or our Spanish Community Themes Flyer.


“Whenever I went to Woodland Park Zoo, I never really saw anybody that looked like me. I think that’s a big part of the kind of disconnect.” (Community Listening Session Participant, 2021)

“What does it look like to take kids from this community and give them access to those kinds of opportunities so that they become spokespeople, they get to develop their interest and naturally share it with the people they’re in a relationship with? (Community Listening Session Participant, 2021)”

Recent Co-designed Programming

In Fall 2022, the Empathy Collaborative in partnership with Antioch University Seattle, began co-designing a pilot program with 9 community partners including Cham Refugee Community Center Seattle, C.H.A.M.P.S. Resource and Service Center, Kaju Fit Club, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Rainier Valley Leadership Academy, Seward Park Audubon, Tilth Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland, Tiny Tots, and Youth in Focus. The collaboration resulted in a teen nature photography camp in southeast Seattle during Seattle Public School’s midwinter break (February 2023) called, Wonder in Nature. Students gained hands-on skills in digital photography, connected with experts in the field, explored nature and the built environment in southeast Seattle, and curated a gallery of their work at the zoo to share with friends and family.  

The Empathy Collaborative will continue to partner with organizations to develop future programming. To stay informed or get involved, please email


Showing Up for South Seattle Communities

In response to community feedback, the Empathy Collaborative participates in community events to share about the project, share what we were hearing from community, listen to community feedback, support community-led efforts and build relationships. Through this work we have engaged and connected with over 3,000 community members. To date the team has participated in:

  • Beacon Art’s Harvest Street Fair
  • C.H.A.M.P.S. Resource and Service Center Job, College and Resource Fair
  • Columbia City Farmer’s Market
  • Duwamish River Clean-up Coalition’s Duwamish River Fest
  • Othello Park International Festival
  • Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s Back2School Bash
  • Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s Boo Bash at the Beach
  • Southend Connection’s Othello Marketplace
  • Tilth Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland’s Farm Fest

To connect about community events or partnerships, please email

Responsive Programming

The Empathy Collaborative is working to actively address what we heard during listening sessions and community events. The following actions are a few highlights of responsive programming:

  • Spring 2022: Held a listening session with high school youth as well as a Spanish language listening session.
  • Spring 2022: Translated participation materials for the zoo’s annual City Nature Challenge into Chinese, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.
  • Summer 2022: Hosted Nurturing Roots Farm’s Know Your Roots Interns at the zoo with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Zoo Doo compost yard and a giraffe feeding.
  • Summer 2022: Co-hosted Nurturing Roots Farm’s Volunteer Appreciation Day with Zoo Doo compost distribution, family friendly activities, games, and food.
  • Spring-Summer 2023: Organized a series of nature outing meetups to build connections to nature and community.

Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103   |  206.548.2500  |

Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Seattle Parks & Recreation
Humane Certification