A Webinar Series with Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter

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May 10th, 2019

This blog was co-written with Joanna Laursen Brucker, Chief Operating Officer at the New Knowledge Organization, Ltd. and Mary Ann Wojton, Project Manager at Center of Science and Industry’s (COSI) Center for Research and Evaluation.

Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter 3 (WZAM3) is a national, collaborative study led by the New Knowledge Organization, Ltd. (New Knowledge), COSI’s Center for Research and Evaluation (CRE), and the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University (OSU), in partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). It is the third iteration of Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter, a 20-year-long effort to understand how zoos and aquariums contribute to American society. Learn more about the history on the project website: www.wzam.org.

WZAM3 is investigating two big research questions. First, it’s exploring the public perception of zoos and aquariums in relation to STEM education and learning. Second, it’s examining how visitors’ purposes and plans for the visit align with the intention and mission of these institutions. A multi-level study design allows consideration of societal, institutional, and individual perspectives.

The project leadership is sharing the project’s conceptual framework, methodological approach, and preliminary research findings through a two-part webinar series, “Aligning Your Agendas With Those of Your Visitors.” The first webinar took place on March 20, with part two on May 2.

Part one: An introduction to the project

The first webinar described how WZAM3 conceptualizes the visitor experience, breaking it up into four parts in order to better understand the role and impact zoos and aquariums have across a person’s life span.

  1. Before the visit and considering what people bring with them to the zoo or aquarium.
  2. During the visit and what people do there.
  3. After the visit and what people take with them.
  4. In between visits as people integrate what they learned into their daily life, and amend how they value the institution.  

Also in the first webinar, New Knowledge presented findings from their nationally representative study that asked people where they learned STEM disciplines and topics within their communities. Survey respondents named some surprising settings like auto shops and restaurants! Below, watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation slides.

Part two: Preliminary findings

During the second webinar, project leadership presented on the following sets of findings:

  • Joe Heimlich (COSI) shared preliminary findings from a survey of visitors across 25 zoos and aquariums exploring what visitors bring to, do during, and take from their visit.
  • Martin Storksdieck (OSU) shared how the team at OSU used video capture and entry/exit interviews to characterize visitors by demographics, group size and age, as well as their intentions and behaviors.
  • John Fraser (New Knowledge) reported on how the public’s perceptions of and trust in zoos and aquariums are shaped by words and context.

Below, watch a recording of the webinar and download the presentation slides.

WZAM3 is funded by the National Science Foundation, under award numbers DRL 1612729 and DRL 1612699.