Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think Summative Evaluation of Science Center-Zoo Collaboration Exhibition and Programs

September 1st, 2012 | EVALUATION

Professionals from the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), New Knowledge Organization, and faculty from Hunter College developed Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think (WM) as a traveling exhibition with ancillary programs about animal cognition to be presented in both science centers and zoos. The project primary goal is to develop public understanding of the complex concept of animal cognition. Its secondary objective is to encourage sustainable science center-zoo partnership in the communities that host Wild Minds. The Wild Minds science center exhibition consists of discreet stand-alone components 14 exhibit elements including some back-to-back displays. Data collectors observed 50 visitors at OMSI, selected at random. Adults (80% of whom were with children) made up half the sample and the rest were children from 8 to 17 years old. On average, visitors stopped at between 4 and 5 components (32% of the exhibition). Only 14% of the visitors used more than 50% of the components. The average time visitors spent in Wild Minds was just under 12 minutes. The majority of interview respondents understood that the exhibition main idea was animal intelligence, and concluded that human and non-human animals share many examples of cognitive abilities. Some of their comments suggested that humans have a responsibility to preserve animal species because they are so much like us. More than one-fourth of the responses inferred the concept of shared evolutionary history in their remarks, for example, We are animals too Some 50 individuals visiting the Oregon Zoo with family and friends were interviewed about the seven Wild Minds panels that were installed within the Zoo 64-acre site. Screening to select only visitors who had seen a WM sign revealed that many Zoo visitors (45%) did not remember seeing one of the relevant interpretive panels. Some 30% of visitors who remembered seeing a sign could describe something they remembered. The most frequent answer was non-specific and did not refer to cognitive abilities Information on animals. The effect of multiple exhibit components many of them interactive arrayed in a confined area delivered a concentrated message at OMSI. Zoo displays were spread out over a vast area, making it difficult if not impossible for visitors to grasp a coherent theme. Interviews at both the Zoo and OMSI demonstrated visitors increased interest in the topic of animal cognition. "Wild Minds" increased visitors respect and concern for animals in the wild and at home. It was unclear from the interviews whether increased respect for animals as complex cognitive beings with emotions would lead to conservation-related behaviors. The appendix of this report includes the surveys and observation protocol used in the study.



Team Members

Ellen Giusti, Evaluator
New York Hall of Science, Contributor
John Fraser, Co-Principal Investigator, New Knowldge Organization, Ltd.


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0840160
Funding Amount: 2131193

Related URLs

Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think


Audience: Adults | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Observation Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits