Nav: Home

Could theatre be way forward in communicating conservation messages?

February 07, 2019

Theatre performances in zoos can be effective in increasing knowledge of important conservation messages, a study at the University of York has revealed.

The study of puppet theatre performances watched by more than 14,000 children and 16,000 adults at Yorkshire's Flamingo Land, showed a 22 per cent increase in the accuracy of knowledge relating to animals and their conservation in children and an 18 per cent increase in adults.

Previous research has shown that conventional zoo education schemes significantly increase learning in school children.

Many visitors to zoos, particularly those with theme parks, however, are seeking entertainment, rather than to be educated, and therefore it is essential to conduct further study into the education experiences of zoo visitors.

Dr Sarah Spooner, who completed the research as part of her PhD at the University of York's Department of Environment and Geography, said: "Since the value and ethics of live animal performances at zoos has been brought into question, zoos have been looking at new ways to deliver 'edutainment' to a broad audience.

"Theatre using puppets has proved a popular way forward, but we wanted to know whether this format makes a difference to what visitors learn about animals and conservation.

"We examined the impact of the 'Mia and Mylo Show' at Flamingo Land, which conveyed basic animal facts and information about conservation work in Tanzania and captive animal breeding programmes."

Through audience questionnaires the team looked at the knowledge that both adults and young children had about animal behaviour and conservation work before they viewed the 'Mia and Mylo Show' and what knowledge they had following the performance.

They found that both adults and children gave more correct answers to the research questions following the theatre production - a 22 per cent increase in children and a 18 per cent increase in children.

Dr Andrew Marshall, from the University of York's Department of Environment and Geography, said: "With hundreds of millions of people visiting zoos across the world each year, global conservation organisations emphasise the essential role that zoos play in inspiring next generations of environmentalists.

"Zoos have played a huge role in inspiring children to pursue careers in conservation, including me. However, we all learn in different ways, so if conservation educators use multiple approaches to get their message across, we will all learn a lot more about animals and how to help them survive."

The researchers acknowledge that as this study was based on one organisation, which is both a zoo and a theme park, more work is needed at various types of zoos, both in the UK and internationally, to get a more fulsome picture of how theatre can be used to increase knowledge of global conservation and its potential for altering behaviours towards the natural world.

Dr Louise Tracey, from the University of York's Department of Education, said: "We now know that learning can be achieved in an entertainment-driven setting, such as Flamingo Land, so it is reasonable to assume that conventional zoos can achieve similar levels of learning.

"It is unlikely that visitors went to the zoo with specific learning objectives, so it is significant that such an increase in knowledge can be achieved across the different age groups."

Dr Spooner added: "We hope that these findings will be used to help other zoos develop theatre performance that enhance visitor knowledge of conservation issues without compromising their overall leisure experience."
-end-
The research is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and published in the journal of Environmental Education Research.

University of York

Related Conservation Articles:

Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.
Making conservation 'contagious'
New research reveals conservation initiatives often spread like disease, a fact which can help scientists and policymakers design programs more likely to be taken up.
Helping conservation initiatives turn contagious
New research shows that conservation initiatives go viral, which helps scientists and policymakers better design successful programs more likely to be adopted.
Overturning the truth on conservation tillage
Conservation tillage does not lower yield in modern cropping systems.
Talking to each other -- how forest conservation can succeed
Forest conservation can be a source of tension between competing priorities and interests from forestry, science, administration and nature conservation organizations.
Better conservation through satellites
The use of satellite telemetry in conservation is entering a 'golden age,' and is now being used to track the movements of individual animals at unprecedented scales.
Maximizing conservation benefits
Overexploitation and population collapse pose significant threats to marine fish stocks across the globe.
Living room conservation: Gaming & virtual reality for insect and ecosystem conservation
Gaming and virtual reality could bridge the gap between urban societies and nature, thereby paving the way to insect conservation by the means of education and participation.
CSI meets conservation
The challenges of collecting DNA samples directly from endangered species makes understanding and protecting them harder.
Rainforest conservation in Peru must become more effective
A few years ago, the Peruvian government launched a program to protect the rainforest.
More Conservation News and Conservation Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.