Families talking about ecology at touch tanks

TitleFamilies talking about ecology at touch tanks
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKopczak, C, Kisiel, JF, Rowe, S
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Pagination129 - 144
Date Published2015/01/02/
ISBN Number1350-4622
Keywordsdiscourse, ecology, family, informal education, museum
AbstractResearch has demonstrated that conversations among museum, aquarium, and zoo visitors can be a clear indication of active learning, engagement, and participation in scientific reasoning. This descriptive study sought to determine the extent of talk about ecology-related topics exhibited by family groups visiting marine touch tanks at four Pacific coast aquariums. In particular, conversations were examined to determine the kinds of ecology topics discussed and the influence of exhibit features such as tank format and interpretive staff interactions on the extent of talk about ecological topics. Findings suggest limited talk about ecology by families during their visit to the exhibit – regardless of whether the tank resembled a real tidepool habitat or not. However, data revealed that talk about ecology between guests and staff was significantly longer than was ecology-talk among guests only, suggesting that supplemental interpretation by staff members or volunteers may be necessary to explicitly encourage such discourse at touch tanks.