Language of Conservation Replication: Summative Evaluation of Poetry in Zoos

March 1st, 2011 | EVALUATION

The Language of Conservation was a collaborative project between libraries, zoos, and poets nationwide to replicate a project originally undertaken by the Central Park Zoo. The project model built zoo, library, and poet-in-residence partnerships in five host cities: Brookfield, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and New Orleans, Louisiana. It was anticipated that the zoo exhibits would result in positive outcomes for zoo visitors who encountered the poetry, including increasing the conservation thinking and language used after a visit and creating a positive response to poetry and its relevance to the zoo experience. Summative evaluation was designed as a replication study, seeking to understand the results of the partner cities' installations in comparable ways to the evaluation of Central Park Zoo's efforts. Key findings of the study, across the five zoos: Poetry installations were frequently read by visitors and were seen as a positive addition to the overall zoo experience. Visitors recalled a wide variety of poems and poetry excerpts from their visits, with several factors appearing to influence visitor recall and receptivity. Four factors seemed to most influence visitor recall and attention to specific poems: Placement and design; Author familiarity; Connection to community; and Brevity and memorability Visitors who saw the poetry described several positive impacts that the poetry had on their experience, including drawing connections between the themes of the poetry and conservation themes or ideas, with the poetry highlighting those key themes of importance to the zoo. About half of visitors who saw the poetry at each zoo indicated that the poetry had influenced them to think more about conservation themes or the natural world. There were very few significant changes (from pre to post) in the type or frequency of visitor comments related to conservation themes in interviews or in their ratings of conservation thinking in questionnaires. The addition of poetry did not appear to cause an increase in implicit connections with the identified conservation themes. Overall, visitor thinking about several of these key concepts was rather strong from the baseline, indicating they are pre-existing themes communicated strongly by zoos, and which left little room for increase (ceiling effect). There were no significant changes (from pre to post) in visitors' attitudes about poetry generally (outside of the reactions to the poetry installations themselves). Overall, results were on par with those found in the study of the Central Park Zoo model project, indicating successful replication of the original project in intent, execution, and visitor response. The appendix of this report includes the interview guide used in the study.



Team Members

Jessica Sickler, Evaluator, Institute for Learning Innovation
Erin Johnson, Evaluator, Institute for Learning Innovation
Claudia Figueriedo, Evaluator, Institute for Learning Innovation
John Fraser, Co-Principal Investigator, Institute for Learning Innovation
Poets House, Contributor


Funding Source: IMLS
Award Number: LG-30-08-0035-08

Related URLs


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Exhibitions | Library Exhibits | Library Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Public Programs | Resource Centers and Networks