Use and Effectiveness of Discovery Carts

Friday, January 1, 2010
Resource Type:
Research and Evaluation Instruments | Observation Protocol | Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs
General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | General STEM
University of Wisconsin, Pacific Science Center

EVALUATION PURPOSE The purpose of this evaluation was to determine which visitors are attracted to interpreter-staffed Discovery Carts and what behaviors they exhibit that reflect their learning experience. To do this, 348 observations of unique visitor interactions with Discovery Carts were collected from January 21 to February 17, 2010. KEY FINDINGS What age group is most attracted to the Discovery Carts? Children ages 3 to10 comprise the majority of visitors to the Discovery Carts. Who initiates the interaction between visitors and the cart? The visitor initiates the majority of interactions at the cart rather than staff, although this is not true for every cart or age group. Staff initiates most interactions with very young children ages 0 to 2. Staff are more likely to initiate interactions at the Nanopalooza, Whales that Walked and Wild About Whales carts. They are least likely to initiate at the Butterfly House and Mesozoic Mysteries carts. How long do visitors stay at the carts and what influences length of stay? Visitors on average spend about three minutes at the cart with about 22 percent staying longer than five minutes. Also, 24 percent of visitors spent less than one minute at the carts. The youngest (ages 0 to 2) and oldest visitors (ages 50 and above) spend less time than average. When staff initiated the cart visit, visitors spent more time at the cart. To what extent are visitors exhibiting learning behaviors during their interaction? 63 percent of visitors demonstrate at least one of the six observed learning behaviors, although only about 12 percent demonstrate more than two. Wild about Whales cart inspires the most behaviors on average while the Bubbles and Butterfly House carts often inspire the least. Answering questions is the most common behavior observed, while verbalizing connections is the least. The appendix of this report includes observation instruments used in the study.


Team Members

Kathryn FromsonKathryn FromsonEvaluator
Jessica NewkirkJessica NewkirkEvaluator
Elizabeth RosinoElizabeth RosinoEvaluator
Shannon WeissEvaluator

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