Attractions Management 2 August 2021

Page 70

RES E ARC H

Power of

YOUTH Research shows teenage volunteers help ‘tweens’ get the most out of

science centres, museums and other attractions. Magali Robathan speaks to the people behind the research to find out the implications for attractions wanting to make more meaningful connections with visitors

I

f you want to increase interest and

talking with a teen educator was – perhaps

engagement in museum exhibits in STEM

this is because a teenage educator isn’t too far

subjects in children and tween visitors,

removed from them, age-wise. Not only can the

enlist the help of teenage docents. This

educator present the topic on the correct level,

is the finding of recent research carried

these kids can also look up to and see themselves

out by North Carolina State University in the

in the teenagers, more than in an adult who

US and the University of Exeter in the UK.

they might view as just another teacher.”

The study surveyed more than 2,100

find higher engagement levels from adults

a zoo, an aquarium, a children’s museum, a

when interacting with youth educators

technology-themed museum and a health-

as compared to adult educators.

themed science centre. It found that teenage

“What was fascinating was not only the strong

educators had a positive effect on the

impact on child visitors, but also the higher

experiences of all age groups, but the effect

engagement level from adults,” Hartstone-

was most marked in children aged 9 to 11.

Rose says. “I refer to that effect as the ‘charm

NC State researchers Kelly Lynn Mulvey,

factor’ – the idea that the adults may want to

associate professor of psychology and Adam

invest time to help youth succeed.” Another

Hartstone-Rose, associate professor of

theory was that learning from a youth educator

biological sciences, led the research, which

poses less of a threat to the self-esteem of adult

measured interest levels at the end of the visit

visitors than learning from an adult peer might.

with questions that covered topic interest and informational recall of exhibit content. They found that levels of information

“These results also make a compelling argument for investing in youth programmes,” Hartstone-Rose says. “The bottom line is, if

retention among 9-to 11-year-olds were

you visit a zoo or museum, seek these people

markedly higher when they interacted with

out – you will have a better experience.”

a youth rather than an adult educator. “We know that learning is highly social, so we

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The researchers were also surprised to

visitors to ‘informal learning sites’, including

Here we speak to the researchers about their findings, and the implications for

expected that visitors would benefit more when

museums and attractions looking to reopen

they interacted with an educator,” Mulvey says.

safely following the covid-19 pandemic.

“But, we were very surprised at how helpful

More: www.attractionsmanagement.com/docents

attractionsmanagement.com AUGUST 2021