Evaluation of public engagement activities to promote science in a zoo environment

Jamie Whitehouse, Bridget M. Waller, Mathilde Chanvin, Emma K. Wallace, Anne M. Schel, Kate Peirce, Heidi Mitchell, Alaina Macri, Katie Slocombe

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Abstract

Scientists are increasing their efforts to promote public engagement with their science, but the efficacy of the methods used is often not scientifically evaluated. Here, we designed, installed and evaluated the educational impact of interactive games on touchscreens at two primate research centres based in zoo environments. The games were designed to promote interest in and understanding of primates and comparative psychology, as a scaffold towards interest in science more generally and with the intention of targeting younger individuals (under 16's). We used systematic observational techniques and questionnaires to assess the impact of the games on zoo visitors. The games facilitated increased interest in psychology and science in zoo visitors, and changed the knowledge of visitors, through demonstration of learning about specific scientific findings nested within the games. The impact of such devices was greatest on younger individuals (under 16's) as they were significantly more likely to engage with the games. On the whole, therefore, this study demonstrates that interactive devices can be successful educational tools, and adds to the growing body of evidence that conducting research on public view in zoos can have a tangible impact on public engagement with science.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere113395
Pages (from-to)e113395
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2014

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