Panda Education as a tool for teaching children about the importance of biodiversity

Biodiversity loss, both locally and worldwide, forms one of the most urgent and accelerating sustainability challenges humanity is presently facing. Zoos generally consider it their educational duty to teach about conservation efforts to protect endangered species and help visitors form connections to the natural world. The emotional power of encountering (endangered) animals close-up is seen as a stimulus to persuade people to live more sustainably.

This three-year research study will focus on zoo education as an instrument for teaching children about the importance of biodiversity. The Giant Pandas in Ouwehands zoo (Rhenen, The Netherlands), with their attractive and iconic appearance, have the potential to provide an entry point for fostering learning about endangered species.

We will use educational design research. During several cycles we will develop a part classroom-based and part zoo-based environmental education project for the upper primary years. It will incorporate preparatory lessons at school, an interactive lesson at the zoo, and a lesson back in the classroom to integrate what the children experienced and what they learned. The project will include learning objectives in three domains: (1) cognitive, (2) values, feelings and attitudes and (3) skills and action competence. Amongst other things, we intend to stimulate critical thinking  and take into account the emotional side of dealing with wicked problems such as biodiversity loss.

We will assess the learning outcomes of the education project and repeat some of our measurements six months after the lessons to assess the impact our project has had over a longer period of time. The study will include collecting a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data.

Rebekah Tauritz is an experienced researcher in the field of learning for sustainability as well as having been a developer of environmental education and communication projects. She holds a BSc in Nature- and Forest Conservation and a MSc in Applied Communication Science and Environmental Education from Wageningen University, and a PhD in Learning for Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh.

- Environmental and Sustainability Education
- Zoo education
- Elementary education
- Biodiversity
- Nature conservation