Zoos and aquariums can be an instrumental avenue for connecting children to nature, thereby contributing to the development of conservation values and environmental stewardship. Survey data from 210 participants from nature play programs at 21 zoo and aquarium sites suggest visitors were more likely to spend time in nature in the future and felt better able to overcome barriers to spending time in nature as a result of their participation. Results suggest perceptions of effectiveness, strength of barriers, and effective strategies varied based on prior participation in nature, with participants not yet engaged in nature-based recreation perceiving the barriers as stronger and participants already nature-engaged perceiving the programs as more effective. For families who are not yet spending time in nature, results suggest the importance of helping families overcome barriers, as well as the importance of programs taking place in natural, less-maintained outdoor settings. Strengthening beliefs regarding the importance of time in nature seems to be an important strategy when working with families who already are spending some time in nature.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo & Aquarium Program is an initiative of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, supported by The Walt Disney Company.
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