St Michael’s Catholic Primary School Belfield student Marcus Joukhador has won Taronga Zoo Sydney’s STEM Enrichment Design competition.

The competition required students to research, design and build an animal enrichment object for the zoo’s pygmy marmoset enclosure.

Taronga Zoo keepers, behavioural scientists and educators were among the judging panel who selected the Year 2 student’s design as the best of 70 entries submitted.

Excitingly, Marcus, his family and his entire class have now been invited to Taronga Zoo where they will get to see his design placed into the enclosure.

Marcus was hands-on during the construction process.


Marcus said that being able to watch the pygmy marmosets enjoy his design first-hand will be a special experience.

“I don’t think I have any words for it – it will be a more than proud moment” – Marcus Joukhador

“I felt so excited because it was my first time entering a competition and to win it was awesome,” Marcus said.


As part of the project, Marcus submitted a comprehensive seven-page document that analysed the pygmy marmoset’s habitat, diet, appearance and behaviour.

He described his findings from websites and videos, and was even inspired by watching his baby cousin interact with the different features on his sensory mat.

From his research, Marcus then sketched out his idea onto paper, making sure that his design ticked all the safety and construction requirements.

Marcus’s hanging board.


Marcus’s final design was a timber hanging activity board that promotes and stimulates the physical and mental health of the pygmy marmoset.

It features sensory blocks, swinging doors, hidden mirrors, food skewers and even includes a natural wooden abacus.

Marcus was hands-on in building the board, helping to drill the attachments and sand down the timber.


When Marcus’s teacher, Emily McKay, first noticed the competition, she immediately knew that it would be something that Marcus would excel at.

“While signing up for Taronga Zoo’s live lessons, I came across the competition and thought of Marcus,” Miss McKay said.

“He has a particular interest in animals and their habitats and when I brought up the design competition he loved the idea and began right away” – Emily McKay

Miss McKay said she was extremely impressed with the effort Marcus put into the project.

“He’s very creative and he put plenty of thought into all the different elements,” she said.

“He designed all the features himself and did a lot of background research into the animal’s physical and sensory needs. He’s done a great job.”