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Abstract

A new but costly approach to providing visitors of zoos with information on conservation is the presentation of small exhibits by zoo professionals or volunteers. At these “touch tables” visitors can find out about the biology, ecology, and conservation of animals kept in the zoo. We studied the effect of a touch table on visitors' learning in a Swiss zoo (Tierpark Goldau) using an experimental approach. For half of each day, visitors could choose to gain information from labels next to the enclosures and posters. In addition, for the other half of the day visitors could also choose to make use of a touch table on the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). More than 600 visitors participated in the study. Results revealed that the modern approach was successful. Visitors using the touch table knew more about the biology, ecology, and conservation of bearded vultures, both immediately after their visit to the zoo and two months later. It is suggested that more use be made of touch tables in zoos, museums, visitor centers, and other settings for nature education. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed90:296–315, 2006