• The Impact of Zoo Live Animal Experiences on Students' Propensity to Engage in Conservation Behavior

      Ketelhut, Diane Jass; Newton, Kristie Jones, 1973-; Brandt, Carol B.; DuCette, Joseph P.; Schifter, Catherine (Temple University. Libraries, 2014)
      Zoos frequently deploy outreach programs, often called "Zoomobiles," to schools; these programs incorporate zoo resources, such as natural artifacts and live animals, in order to teach standardized content and in hopes of inspiring students to protect the environment. Educational research at zoos is relatively rare, and research on their outreach programs is non-existent. This leaves zoos vulnerable to criticisms as they have little to no evidence that their strategies support their missions, which target conservation outcomes. This study seeks to shed light on this gap by analyzing the impact that live animals have on offsite program participants' interests in animals and subsequent conservation outcomes. The theoretical lens is derived from the field of Conservation Psychology, which believes personal connections with nature serve as the motivational component to engagement with conservation efforts. Using pre, post, and delayed surveys combined with Zoomobile presentation observations, I analyzed the roles of sensory experiences in students' (N=197) development of animal interest and conservation behaviors. Results suggest that touching even one animal during presentations has a significant impact on conservation intents and sustainment of those intents. Although results on interest outcomes are conflicting, this study points to ways this kind of research can make significant contributions to zoo learning outcomes. Other significant variables, such as emotional predispositions and animal-related excitement, are discussed in light of future research directions.