ERIC Number: ED477832
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 2003-Mar
Free-Choice Learning at a Metropolitan Zoo.
Coll, Richard K.; Tofield, Sara; Vyle, Brent; Bolstad, Rachel
This paper reports on an inquiry into the use of zoos as a source of informal or free choice learning. The study was contextualized within the zoo's environmental enrichment program - an animal husbandry principle that seeks to develop species-typical behavior for captive animals by using naturalistic enclosures or artificial items that stimulate animal interest. Visitor perceptions and actual use of the zoo were investigated using structured interviews that elicited perspectives of the nature and character of zoo settings and included the use of photographs of selected exhibits to induce stimulated recall. These data were triangulated with unobtrusive observation at selected exhibits. The visitors' spent little time at a given exhibit, and rated the more naturalistic or enriched exhibits more favorably, but older visitors seemed less concerned with naturalness of exhibits. The zoo considers that it has an important role in education and provides many opportunities for learning for general visitors and school groups. General visitors and school groups see the prime purpose of their visit to be entertainment. The learning of science is limited for general zoo visitors and enhanced for school children by pre- and post-visit activities and strong links to curricula. (Author)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (Philadelphia, PA, March 23-26, 2003).