To inform development of the Curious by Nature exhibit and related programs, staff at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) wants to hear from parents. Staff are especially interested in the experience of families with children who have special needs. In recent years the JMZ has developed an audience in this community of often close-knit friends and organizations. JMZ is also part of a successful collaboration with Abilities United and PACE (Pacific Autism Center for Education) in which disabled adults volunteer in the Zoo on a weekly basis. The institution’s intimate nature, good design and warm staff have established it as a welcoming venue for all types of learners. Tina Keegan, Exhibits Director at JMZ, contracted with Wendy Meluch of Visitor Studies Services (the evaluator) to conduct a community conversation with parents on site at the Museum. Staff reached out to JMZ visitors and local organizations to invite parents of children with special needs to participate. During the session, staff provided hands-on, educational programming and lunch to the children and their caregivers. This report includes extensive quotations from the two-hour discussion to give the reader a more nuanced sense of this population’s experiences and needs than a summary can provide. To protect participant anonymity, citations for quotations are not provided. Bullet points denote separate speakers. Tina Keegan’s comments are identified with “T” and the evaluator’s with “E.”
Visitor Studies Services
Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
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