Riddle for today - World Theatre Day: What do puppets, education, zoos and stage shows have in common?

World Theatre Day has been celebrated since 1962 aiming to impart a love and appreciation of all that theatre productions can bring to audiences, communities and of course the performers.  It is a day for those who can see the value and importance of the art form “theatre” and a chance to remind others of the value of theatre, culturally and economically. And might just help educate visitors to zoos, it appears that visitors to zoos learn more and remember more detail when they watch a stage show.  Research by the University of York published last month showed a 22 per cent increase in the accuracy of knowledge relating to animals and their conservation in children and an 18 per cent increase in adults when they had watched a stage show with performers and meercat puppets.  More traditional zoo education schemes are effective as well and research has shown a significant increase in knowledge in school children after taking part in an education session but as the ethics of real animal shows are rightly being questioned educators need a new effective way to convey vital conservation messages and share knowledge of the animals.  Perhaps puppets and stage shows might be the answer.  Most visitors to zoos are not looking to spend time in the classroom but are looking to be entertained on their day out and if a fun stage show is part of that day zoos and conservationists can sneak in some education without the visitors realising!  Whilst this is only one study of a single site and the authors recognise this limitation it gives pause for thought and suggests a possible way forward, not just for zoos but maybe for all countryside sites.

And access the published paper here: Sarah Louise Spooner, Eric Allen Jensen, Louise Tracey & Andrew Robert Marshall (2019) Evaluating the impacts of theatre-based wildlife and conservation education at the zoo, Environmental Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2019.1569201