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Research and Evaluation Instruments

Language of Conservation Replication: Summative Evaluation of Poetry in Zoos

March 1, 2011 | Public Programs, Public Programs, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Exhibitions, Exhibitions
The Language of Conservation was a collaborative project between libraries, zoos, and poets nationwide to replicate a project originally undertaken by the Central Park Zoo. The project model built zoo, library, and poet-in-residence partnerships in five host cities: Brookfield, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and New Orleans, Louisiana. It was anticipated that the zoo exhibits would result in positive outcomes for zoo visitors who encountered the poetry, including increasing the conservation thinking and language used after a visit and creating a positive response to poetry and its relevance to the zoo experience. Summative evaluation was designed as a replication study, seeking to understand the results of the partner cities' installations in comparable ways to the evaluation of Central Park Zoo's efforts. Key findings of the study, across the five zoos: Poetry installations were frequently read by visitors and were seen as a positive addition to the overall zoo experience. Visitors recalled a wide variety of poems and poetry excerpts from their visits, with several factors appearing to influence visitor recall and receptivity. Four factors seemed to most influence visitor recall and attention to specific poems: Placement and design; Author familiarity; Connection to community; and Brevity and memorability Visitors who saw the poetry described several positive impacts that the poetry had on their experience, including drawing connections between the themes of the poetry and conservation themes or ideas, with the poetry highlighting those key themes of importance to the zoo. About half of visitors who saw the poetry at each zoo indicated that the poetry had influenced them to think more about conservation themes or the natural world. There were very few significant changes (from pre to post) in the type or frequency of visitor comments related to conservation themes in interviews or in their ratings of conservation thinking in questionnaires. The addition of poetry did not appear to cause an increase in implicit connections with the identified conservation themes. Overall, visitor thinking about several of these key concepts was rather strong from the baseline, indicating they are pre-existing themes communicated strongly by zoos, and which left little room for increase (ceiling effect). There were no significant changes (from pre to post) in visitors' attitudes about poetry generally (outside of the reactions to the poetry installations themselves). Overall, results were on par with those found in the study of the Central Park Zoo model project, indicating successful replication of the original project in intent, execution, and visitor response. The appendix of this report includes the interview guide used in the study.


  • JS 149 sq small size
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Erin Johnson
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Claudia Figueriedo
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Johnny Sq
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Poets House
  • Citation


    Award Number: LG-30-08-0035-08
    Resource Type: Interview Protocol | Evaluation Reports | Summative
    Discipline: Art, music, and theater | Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
    Audience: Families | Adults | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
    Environment Type: Public Programs | Library Programs | Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks | Resource Centers and Networks | Exhibitions | Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Library Exhibits

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