As a single 40-something who consciously chose cats over kids, I know my limitations when it comes to understanding the intricacies of childhood learning. You might see this as a challenge for a zoo designer, but I guess I just always thought about designing experiences that hit the emotional wire that runs through each of us, regardless of age, sparking that special connection people have with animals. I’ve never been a believer in heavy informational signage, hoping that emotional connection will instead drive people to google (verb) their newly found favorite animal.
Yesterday, I discovered this fascinating new study that shows the best way to convince an adult of an argument (specifically, in this study, related to climate change) is to get their kids to make the argument for you. And, if they have a daughter, all the better, because as we ALL know, girls are better at communication and deep thinking (no haters…the study says this!).
The implications of this study to zoos and aquariums are immense. The study, in general, provides yet more evidential support of zoo and aquarium experiences being critically important. Not only do we have the opportunity to connect with people of all ages EMOTIONALLY, but we’ve now unlocked the key to impacting the minds and possibly the actions of adults, too. We already assumed children were sponges of information (if they are interested in a subject), but now we know the importance of those sponges—beyond building the foundation of thoughtful, empathetic, conservation-minded future adults. Those sponges could be the perfect delivery mechanisms for conservation change for today’s adults. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The question is now, does that dog have a daughter?
The study showed that not only are daughters better at convincing parents, but daughters are better specifically at convincing dear old dad. I wonder if there is an age limit, because the nostalgia of a blond, buck-toothed, bespectacled pre-teen in a pink polka-dotted dress dancing on dad’s size 15 shoes at the daddy-daughter dance is a powerful tonic egging me on to attempt to break through dad’s climate change denial built up from endless hours of FOX News viewing. I’ll let you know if I change his mind.
In the meantime, take a look at the study, summarized in Scientific American here, and let’s work on connecting the informational dots between emotional, inspiring experiences and what everyday people can do to make the world a better place for all living things. Including those old dogs…