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Talking about animals : studies of young children visiting zoos, a museum and a farm.

By Susan Dale Tunnicliffe

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Conversations of children, between the ages of three and twelve years, and their accompanying adults were recorded at animal exhibits during visits, organised either by the school or family, to a variety of zoos in England and the USA, and to the Natural History Museum, London. The animal exhibits were either alive, preserved, or models, sometimes animated. Conversations of school groups at a farm in England were also collected. A total of 2, 966 conversational exchanges at animal exhibits, and 248 at the farm, were tape recorded, transcribed and coded according to a systemic network that had been designed after examining the data collected from pilot studies. A range of variables was created from the coded data. Despite the differences in setting there was a, to some extent surprising, uniformity in the responses in the different institutions, and between US and UK visitors to zoos. There were some statistically significant differences between some categories of the conversations at the three types of animal exhibit; between these and those at farm animals; between school and family groups; between the different subgroups with the school parties - teacher groups, chaperone groups and children alone; between the two pupil age groups: pupils of seven years and below and pupils aged eight to twelve years. There is little evidence that schools are developing children's understanding of zoology during such visits or that the visitors are using the interpretation provided by the museum or zoo: comments about the exhibits are drawn from their own knowledge


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 1995
Pages 412
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
Language English
University University of London
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Children
  3. Farms
  4. open access
  5. Zoo and captive wild animals
  6. Zoos
  1. open access