Children, Animals, And Leisure Settings
A total of 48 children were interviewed about the behavior of wild and captive animals after half toured a series of exhibits at a museum and half toured a comparable series of exhibits at zoos. In both cases, children retained a number of specific memories, though the remarks of the zoo group referred more frequently to behavior and were generally more positive in their assessment of what animals could do than the remarks of the museum children. However museum children referred more frequently to environmental issues and elements than the zoo children.
A total of 115 sixth grade students visited a museum with animal displays while 128 sixth grade students visited a zoo. After the visits, five types of questions were used to interview the students to probe their behavior, sensory experiences feelings, knowledge and opinions.
The finding supported Osbourne’s (1983) observations that children’s thinking is characterized by a high level of specificity, limited experience, language and human-centeredness. Specific experience was revealed when museum children mentioned ethnographic collections and zoo children did not, when zoo children used affective descriptors and museum children did not, and when zoo children felt negative about fatigue and museum felt negative about crowding.
The museum group showed more variability in their recall, while the zoo group focuses more on the salient characteristics of behavior. More zoo children recalled animal behavior as a salient memory while museum children were more likely to recall specific adaptations or the realism of a posed animal.
In sum, this research found that children acquired information about wildlife both from visits to museums and from visits to zoos. The exhibits viewed tend to influence how much children will later discuss an animal’s behavior and habitat.