Holding Power of Seattle Aquarium Exhibits for the Toddler Audience

Saturday, January 1, 2011
Resource Type:
Research and Evaluation Instruments | Interview Protocol | Observation Protocol | Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits
Families | Pre-K Children (0-5) | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography
University of Washington, Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium seeks to discover how toddler families experience its exhibits and how to best incorporate toddler family needs in future exhibit developments. The goal of this study is to begin to document toddler-exhibit interactions in order to better understand the Aquarium experience for that audience. The specific research goal was to determine which exhibit elements are attracting and holding the attention of the toddler family audience. A total of 47 caregiver interviews and 297 toddler observations across three exhibit areas were collected from January-March 2011 at the Seattle Aquarium. Results suggest that, in general, the exhibit elements that were attracting the most toddlers were also the elements with the highest holding power. Additionally, caregiver perception of which elements are and are not appealing to their toddler aligns, for the most part, with the patterns of use seen in the exhibit observations. The Family Activity Center (FAC) and the Hands-on Hallway had comparable average dwell times at 130 and 129 seconds, respectively. However, the distribution of time across exhibit elements differs. Time in FAC was distributed across multiple exhibit elements. In the Hands-on Hallway 75% of time spent was concentrated around the felt board. While the Octopus Area had the lowest average dwell time (74 seconds) it contained the exhibit element with the highest toddler attendance (85%). This exhibit element, the octopus tank, also had the second highest holding time (38 seconds) across the three exhibits. The four exhibits with the highest percent of toddler attendance also had the highest holding times. Top Four Elements by Percent Attendance Octopus Tank (85% of toddlers) Felt Board (65% of toddlers Orca Audio Buttons (57% of toddlers) Orca Fin (45% of toddlers) Top Four Elements by Holding Time Felt Board (100 seconds) Octopus Tank (38 seconds) Orca Fin (30 seconds) Orca Audio Buttons (26 seconds) 85% of all caregivers interviewed were interested in a toddler-focused exhibit area. When asked what they would like to see in the exhibit space, 61% of all responses were requests for interactive elements. This report includes observation protocols (tracking maps) and an interview protocol.


Team Members

Andrea BarberAndrea BarberEvaluator
Kaleen PovisKaleen PovisEvaluator

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