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Assessing a Children's Zoo Designed to Promote Science Learning Behavior through Active Play: How Does It Measure Up?

Eric A. Worch and Jodi J. Haney
Children, Youth and Environments
Vol. 21, No. 2, Designing Environments to Promote Play-Based Science Learning (2011), pp. 383-407
Published by: University of Cincinnati
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.21.2.0383
Page Count: 25
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Assessing a Children's Zoo Designed to Promote Science Learning Behavior through Active Play: How Does It Measure Up?
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Abstract

There is a small but growing number of children's zoos designed from a play-based learning perspective. In 2009, Toledo Zoo opened Nature's Neighborhood, a naturalized play-based children's zoo designed to foster science learning behaviors and an appreciation of nature. As part of a multi-faceted assessment plan, this study used behavior mapping to examine the types of play and science learning behaviors observed throughout the exhibit in light of the specific design elements of each programmed space. Children engaged in significantly more playful (functional, sensory, constructive, dramatic, games) than non-playful behavior and over three-quarters of all science learning behavior occurred during play. Play and science learning behaviors were facilitated by a combination of fixed and loose materials that provide a wide developmental range of play and learning challenges. Implications for playground design to promote children's play and science learning behavior are discussed.

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