UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Enhancing informal learning in an Aquarium McIntosh, Lisa M


Educators in zoo sand a quaria today present general information in an attempt to educate visitors about animals and conservation issues. This presentation of biological information is isolated from the any observable animal activity in the exhibit. The Vancouver Aquarium has a different approach to visitor learning. This thesis examines one of its innovative approaches to visitor education designed to initiate visitor involvement with animals in the exhibits. This innovative approach uses changeable , handwritten whiteboards to highlight new animal events in the Vancouver Aquarium. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to investigate the effect of these whiteboards on the behaviour of groups of visitors at an exhibit through observations and short group interviews. Sixty-two percent of the visitors observed in the study used the whiteboard. The average time whiteboard users spent viewing the exhibit (57.06 seconds) was significantly greater (t = 36.65, df = 129, p < 0.001) than the time non-whiteboard users spent viewing the exhibit (25.94 seconds). Whiteboard users also exhibited a significantly higher level of interactivity (the number of behaviours , pointing, peering , conversing and rereading the whiteboard an individual demonstrates while at an exhibit) than the non-whiteboard users (X2 = 237.16, p < 0.01). Interview comments revealed that whiteboard users understood the Vancouver Aquarium's intent to convey real, relevant, current and changing information about animals within the exhibits using whiteboards.

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