Research - Power of youth | attractionsmanagement.com
GET ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT
magazine
Yes! Send me the FREE digital edition of Attractions Management and the FREE weekly Attractions Management ezines and breaking news alerts!
Not right now, thanksclose this window
POST YOUR JOB ONLINE
Free ezine/digital edition sign up
Jobs   News   Features   Video    Products   Company profilesProfiles   Magazine   Handbook   Advertise  
Research
Power of youth

Research shows teenage volunteers help ‘tweens’ get the most out of science centres, museums and other attractions. Magali Robathan speaks to the people behind the research to find out the implications for attractions wanting to make more meaningful connections with visitors


If you want to increase interest and engagement in museum exhibits in STEM subjects in children and tween visitors, enlist the help of teenage docents. This is the finding of recent research carried out by North Carolina State University in the US and the University of Exeter in the UK.

The study surveyed more than 2,100 visitors to ‘informal learning sites’, including a zoo, an aquarium, a children’s museum, a technology-themed museum and a health-themed science centre. It found that teenage educators had a positive effect on the experiences of all age groups, but the effect was most marked in children aged 9 to 11.

NC State researchers Kelly Lynn Mulvey, associate professor of psychology and Adam Hartstone-Rose, associate professor of biological sciences, led the research, which measured interest levels at the end of the visit with questions that covered topic interest and informational recall of exhibit content.

They found that levels of information retention among 9-to 11-year-olds were markedly higher when they interacted with a youth rather than an adult educator.

“We know that learning is highly social, so we expected that visitors would benefit more when they interacted with an educator,” Mulvey says. “But, we were very surprised at how helpful talking with a teen educator was – perhaps this is because a teenage educator isn’t too far removed from them, age-wise. Not only can the educator present the topic on the correct level, these kids can also look up to and see themselves in the teenagers, more than in an adult who they might view as just another teacher.”

The researchers were also surprised to find higher engagement levels from adults when interacting with youth educators as compared to adult educators.

“What was fascinating was not only the strong impact on child visitors, but also the higher engagement level from adults,” Hartstone-Rose says. “I refer to that effect as the ‘charm factor’ – the idea that the adults may want to invest time to help youth succeed.” Another theory was that learning from a youth educator poses less of a threat to the self-esteem of adult visitors than learning from an adult peer might.

“These results also make a compelling argument for investing in youth programmes,” Hartstone-Rose says. “The bottom line is, if you visit a zoo or museum, seek these people out – you will have a better experience.”

Here we speak to the researchers about their findings, and the implications for museums and attractions looking to reopen safely following the covid-19 pandemic.

More: attractionsmanagement.com/docents

Kelly Lynn Mulvey, PhD
Associate professor of psychology, North Carolina State University
Kelly Lynn Mulvey started her career as a school teacher
What were the most surprising results from this study?

We were very excited to learn how much of a positive impact the youth educators had on both children and adults. We expected that children would do really well with youth educators, given prior research on how well children learn from their peers, but we were surprised that the adult visitors also really benefited from interacting with them.

How did teen docents impact engagement levels among visitors?

Adult visitors reported that they were significantly more interested and learned more when they interacted with a teen educator than with an adult educator. Children were highly interested and felt they learned a lot whether they interacted with a youth or adult educator.

Interestingly, children in middle childhood (aged 9-11 years) were able to accurately recall more information when they interacted with a youth educator than with an adult educator or with just the exhibit.

Why do you think the teen docents had such a noticeable impact on the engagement of tweens in particular?

We think that youth educators were able to connect well with our visitors in middle childhood. The youth educators were probably able to accurately judge what children in middle childhood already knew and what might be especially interesting to them about the exhibit. We expect that they made relevant connections with the visitors. It’s also possible that children in middle childhood looked up to the youth educators and were highly motivated to learn from teens.

Were you surprised by how much the teen docents increased engagement levels among adult visitors?

Yes! We think it’s possible that the adult visitors were especially engaged with the youth educators because they were charmed by them or were invested in wanting to help encourage the youth educators and thus spent more energy engaging with the youth educators than with adult educators.

Adam Hartstone-Rose, PhD
Associate professor of biological sciences, North Carolina State University
Hartstone-Rose worked with Mulvey on the research
What are the biggest benefits teenage docents get from volunteering?

The docents get an enormous amount out of the teen programme experience. That’s one of the things that we’re still studying, but preliminarily, we think that these programmes are fantastic for their STEM engagement, and we hope that they are especially good for encouraging under-represented groups to stay in these fields. Our study hasn’t made any modifications to the existing programmes – we’re just studying them as is.

What relevance does this research have as museums are dealing with the challenges of reopening safely?

As institutions struggle, they have to make difficult decisions about prioritisation and our data suggests that these teen programmes are great value; not only are they fantastic for the teen participants, but because the teens are such effective educators, the institutions are essentially getting twice the benefit. In other words, they get value toward their educational mission both in terms of the impact on the teens and the teens’ impact on the visitors.

Adult educators are also great, but our research would suggest that these teen programmes are actually more effective at supporting museums’ educational mission.

What would you like to see come of this research?

Our work is among the first to show quantitative evidence of the wonderful benefits of these teen programmes. As we disseminate these results, we hope that institutions realise how impactful programmes like this are and choose to start, grow and emphasise them.

By the end of the project, we hope to have evidence-based systems of ‘best practices’ for how to build or modify these teen programmes for maximum effectiveness toward creating and enhancing STEM interest and engagement – especially for target populations like girls and people from marginalised ethnic groups that can feel excluded from STEM fields as they progress in their educations.

These results make a compelling argument for investing in youth programmes
Youth docent programmes are of benefit to visitors and also to the teens / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/SeventyFour
Researchers found adults want to encourage youth educators Credit: photo: SHUTTERSTOCK/akov Filimonov
COMPANY PROFILES
WhiteWater

WhiteWater was born in 1980 to create places where families unite and make joyful lasting memories [more...]
TechnoAlpin

The TechnoAlpin SnowRoom is the most attractive and effective way for customers to cool down from h [more...]
Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
Painting With Light

By combining lighting, video, scenic and architectural elements, sound and special effects we tell s [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Future-proofing ticketing solutions with TOR Systems
TOR Systems, the UK’s leading ticketing, booking and CRM solutions provider, is urging tourism and heritage companies to future proof their ticketing solutions when procuring in the wake of the pandemic. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Proslide Tech Inc - ProSlide | Atlantis Dubai
More videos:
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

24-25 Nov 2021

Scotland’s National Tourism Industry Conference

EICC, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
+ More diary  
LATEST ISSUES
+ View Magazine Archive

Attractions Management

2021 issue 3


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2021 issue 2


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2021 issue 1


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2020 issue 1


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management News

06 Apr 2020 issue 153


View on turning pages
Download PDF
View archive
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Handbook

2019


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription
 
ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
 
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2021
Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Research
Power of youth

Research shows teenage volunteers help ‘tweens’ get the most out of science centres, museums and other attractions. Magali Robathan speaks to the people behind the research to find out the implications for attractions wanting to make more meaningful connections with visitors


If you want to increase interest and engagement in museum exhibits in STEM subjects in children and tween visitors, enlist the help of teenage docents. This is the finding of recent research carried out by North Carolina State University in the US and the University of Exeter in the UK.

The study surveyed more than 2,100 visitors to ‘informal learning sites’, including a zoo, an aquarium, a children’s museum, a technology-themed museum and a health-themed science centre. It found that teenage educators had a positive effect on the experiences of all age groups, but the effect was most marked in children aged 9 to 11.

NC State researchers Kelly Lynn Mulvey, associate professor of psychology and Adam Hartstone-Rose, associate professor of biological sciences, led the research, which measured interest levels at the end of the visit with questions that covered topic interest and informational recall of exhibit content.

They found that levels of information retention among 9-to 11-year-olds were markedly higher when they interacted with a youth rather than an adult educator.

“We know that learning is highly social, so we expected that visitors would benefit more when they interacted with an educator,” Mulvey says. “But, we were very surprised at how helpful talking with a teen educator was – perhaps this is because a teenage educator isn’t too far removed from them, age-wise. Not only can the educator present the topic on the correct level, these kids can also look up to and see themselves in the teenagers, more than in an adult who they might view as just another teacher.”

The researchers were also surprised to find higher engagement levels from adults when interacting with youth educators as compared to adult educators.

“What was fascinating was not only the strong impact on child visitors, but also the higher engagement level from adults,” Hartstone-Rose says. “I refer to that effect as the ‘charm factor’ – the idea that the adults may want to invest time to help youth succeed.” Another theory was that learning from a youth educator poses less of a threat to the self-esteem of adult visitors than learning from an adult peer might.

“These results also make a compelling argument for investing in youth programmes,” Hartstone-Rose says. “The bottom line is, if you visit a zoo or museum, seek these people out – you will have a better experience.”

Here we speak to the researchers about their findings, and the implications for museums and attractions looking to reopen safely following the covid-19 pandemic.

More: attractionsmanagement.com/docents

Kelly Lynn Mulvey, PhD
Associate professor of psychology, North Carolina State University
Kelly Lynn Mulvey started her career as a school teacher
What were the most surprising results from this study?

We were very excited to learn how much of a positive impact the youth educators had on both children and adults. We expected that children would do really well with youth educators, given prior research on how well children learn from their peers, but we were surprised that the adult visitors also really benefited from interacting with them.

How did teen docents impact engagement levels among visitors?

Adult visitors reported that they were significantly more interested and learned more when they interacted with a teen educator than with an adult educator. Children were highly interested and felt they learned a lot whether they interacted with a youth or adult educator.

Interestingly, children in middle childhood (aged 9-11 years) were able to accurately recall more information when they interacted with a youth educator than with an adult educator or with just the exhibit.

Why do you think the teen docents had such a noticeable impact on the engagement of tweens in particular?

We think that youth educators were able to connect well with our visitors in middle childhood. The youth educators were probably able to accurately judge what children in middle childhood already knew and what might be especially interesting to them about the exhibit. We expect that they made relevant connections with the visitors. It’s also possible that children in middle childhood looked up to the youth educators and were highly motivated to learn from teens.

Were you surprised by how much the teen docents increased engagement levels among adult visitors?

Yes! We think it’s possible that the adult visitors were especially engaged with the youth educators because they were charmed by them or were invested in wanting to help encourage the youth educators and thus spent more energy engaging with the youth educators than with adult educators.

Adam Hartstone-Rose, PhD
Associate professor of biological sciences, North Carolina State University
Hartstone-Rose worked with Mulvey on the research
What are the biggest benefits teenage docents get from volunteering?

The docents get an enormous amount out of the teen programme experience. That’s one of the things that we’re still studying, but preliminarily, we think that these programmes are fantastic for their STEM engagement, and we hope that they are especially good for encouraging under-represented groups to stay in these fields. Our study hasn’t made any modifications to the existing programmes – we’re just studying them as is.

What relevance does this research have as museums are dealing with the challenges of reopening safely?

As institutions struggle, they have to make difficult decisions about prioritisation and our data suggests that these teen programmes are great value; not only are they fantastic for the teen participants, but because the teens are such effective educators, the institutions are essentially getting twice the benefit. In other words, they get value toward their educational mission both in terms of the impact on the teens and the teens’ impact on the visitors.

Adult educators are also great, but our research would suggest that these teen programmes are actually more effective at supporting museums’ educational mission.

What would you like to see come of this research?

Our work is among the first to show quantitative evidence of the wonderful benefits of these teen programmes. As we disseminate these results, we hope that institutions realise how impactful programmes like this are and choose to start, grow and emphasise them.

By the end of the project, we hope to have evidence-based systems of ‘best practices’ for how to build or modify these teen programmes for maximum effectiveness toward creating and enhancing STEM interest and engagement – especially for target populations like girls and people from marginalised ethnic groups that can feel excluded from STEM fields as they progress in their educations.

These results make a compelling argument for investing in youth programmes
Youth docent programmes are of benefit to visitors and also to the teens / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/SeventyFour
Researchers found adults want to encourage youth educators Credit: photo: SHUTTERSTOCK/akov Filimonov
LATEST NEWS
Winners of first-ever Surf Park Awards revealed
Australian surf park operator URBNSurf and wave generating specialist Wavegarden are among the winners of the inaugural Surf Park Awards.
Little Amal, a puppet of a refugee girl, has walked 5,000km across Europe
A puppet of a refugee girl has 'walked' across Europe on a 5,000km (3,100m) journey, with the help of eleven puppeteers and is now nearing the end of her journey from Syria to the UK.
Eden Project Qingdao reaches construction milestone
Construction work on the Eden Project Qingdao visitor attraction in China has reached a major milestone.
World’s first UNESCO digital trail launches in Scotland
Scotland's Unesco World Heritage Sites are being brought together through the world’s first ever UNESCO digital trail.
Jakob Wahl appointed IAAPA's chief operating officer
Jakob Wahl has been named executive VP and chief operating officer of global attractions industry body IAAPA.
World Food Center Experience will be ‘Silicon Valley’ of food
Plans for the World Food Center Experience in Ede, Netherlands, have been given the final green light by the Provincial Executive of Gelderland.
Creative legends behind iconic Spider-Man ride team to give talk at IAAPA Expo
The creative geniuses behind the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man darkride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando, Florida will offer their insights into the creative process behind the iconic attraction.
Europa Park extends winter opening for the first time as part of Hallowinter celebration
For the first time in its history, Europa-Park has announced it will remain open between Halloween and the start of its winter schedule as part of a ‘HALLOWinter’ offering.
V&A renames childhood museum as part of £13m redevelopment
Construction work has begun on a £13m redevelopment project which will look to transform the V&A Museum of Childhood into the UK’s "premier national museum" entirely dedicated to children.
Tokyo's Harry Potter studio tour will have Fantastic Beasts universe
The Harry Potter studio tour attraction, planned for the Japanese capital city Tokyo, will span a total of 322,000sq ft when it opens to the public in 2023.
Jacksonville Zoo reveals US$50m masterplan
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida, US has launched a fundraising campaign to fund an ambitious US$50m redevelopment and redesign project.
Boris Johnson throws his support behind Eden Project North in Morecambe
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has thrown his weight behind plans to build an Eden Project North visitor attraction in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe.
+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILES
WhiteWater

WhiteWater was born in 1980 to create places where families unite and make joyful lasting memories [more...]
TechnoAlpin

The TechnoAlpin SnowRoom is the most attractive and effective way for customers to cool down from h [more...]
Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
Painting With Light

By combining lighting, video, scenic and architectural elements, sound and special effects we tell s [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Future-proofing ticketing solutions with TOR Systems
TOR Systems, the UK’s leading ticketing, booking and CRM solutions provider, is urging tourism and heritage companies to future proof their ticketing solutions when procuring in the wake of the pandemic. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Proslide Tech Inc - ProSlide | Atlantis Dubai
More videos:
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

24-25 Nov 2021

Scotland’s National Tourism Industry Conference

EICC, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2021

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS