Are interactive activities for zoo visitors effective education tools?

This project evaluated the impact interactive learning activities have on zoo visitors and identified factors that may influence the success of informal learning.

By interviewing zoo visitors with and without access to an endangered amphibian based activity, we found that those that participated had a better knowledge of the species than those that didn’t. Also, the study suggests that motivations for visiting Chester Zoo can have a positive influence on the learning outcomes of visitors.

Project detail

Education is one of the main roles of a modern zoo. Therefore, Chester Zoo must provide valuable learning opportunities to visitors to promote the conservation work that we do and the species we keep. 

To discover the impact of interactive activities at the zoo, we conducted semi-structured interviews with visitors that participated in interactive activities based around two endangered species of frog; the mountain chicken and golden mantella.

On days the activity was not running, visitors were interviewed to act as a control for comparison. The questions were designed to investigate variables that impact on informal learning such as prior knowledge, motivation for visiting, knowledge of the species and the conservation efforts of the zoo. We found that visitors who engaged in the activities had a greater knowledge regarding the target species compared to the control group.

Word cloud - Chester Zoo
Word cloud visualisations comparing the responses given to the question: 'What three words would you use to describe a Mountain chicken?'

Also, those that had come to the zoo 'to see the animals' appeared to benefit more from the interactive activities than those with an alternative motive. Although the activities appeared to have no impact on conservation knowledge, this research suggests that interactive initiatives encourage learning in a zoo setting and the participants’ motive for visiting can contribute to this. 

These results can help us understand how learning differs between various groups of visitors and what methods we can implicate to benefit the wider audience.

Project team

Key Facts

Engaging in interactive learning activities improves zoo visitors' species knowledge
Motivations for visiting the zoo impact positively on informal learning
Specific audience targeted activities may be a better approach to learning

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