Zoo education: from formal school programmes to exhibit design and interpretation



In the past zoo education largely comprised the formal education of school groups but this concept has altered dramatically in the last 10–15 years as the role of zoos has changed. Zoo education now encompasses all visitors. The education department is often consulted on the design of new exhibits because enclosures need to provide an environment which is not only beneficial for the animals but also interesting and thought-provoking for visitors. The use of signage, interpretative graphics, worksheets and presentations by staff increase awareness and knowledge for children and adults alike and result in a stimulating visit to the zoo. Education and interpretation will increasingly utilize modern information technology, allowing direct links to in situ conservation programmes which zoo visitors help to support. The principles behind zoo educationhnterpretation are described and examples of successful exhibits at Copenhagen and Bronx Zoos are provided.