Parent–Child Conversations About Animals in Informal Learning Environments

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ABSTRACT: A large body of empirical research has focused on understanding children's biological knowledge development. However, limited research has investigated the informal learning experiences through which children actively construct biological concepts. The current study focused on examining whether parents provide information that supports and shapes children's emerging biological knowledge within settings that provide opportunities for biological learning about animals. We observed parent–child interaction within informal learning environments about two different types of animals: A penguin exhibit at a zoo and an insect exhibit at a science museum. Fifty-two families with preschool and school-aged children participated. Parents more frequently provided important, unobservable information such as predictions and causal inferences to the youngest children, potentially supporting the development of children's knowledge. However, parents seldom explicitly supported their children's knowledge by providing explanations of readily observable biological processes. Further research examining these and other direct and indirect animal experiences in informal learning settings can help us better understand how to support children's early biological learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-63
Number of pages25
JournalVisitor Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Communication
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Museology

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