Groff, A., et al. (2006), An Exploratory Investigation of the Effect of Working in an Environmentally Themed Facility on the Conservation‐related Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviour of Staff, Environmental Education Research 11(3), 371-387.
In the past decade, we have seen an increased focus on measuring the impact of zoos, aquariums, and other free‐choice learning environments on the conservation‐related knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of the visiting public. However, no such studies have been conducted on the impact of such environments on the staff working in these facilities – the very staff that in turn interact with the public on a daily basis. Clearly these interactions are recognized as being important; for example, the thousands of staff employed by Disney’s Animal Kingdom are regularly provided with conservation‐related training – both formal, in‐class experiences, as well as more informal experiences with animals; these are a mixture of compulsory and freely chosen experiences. An exploratory qualitative study was conducted to investigate the impact of working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on staff knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour related to animals and their conservation. The resulting findings offer preliminary evidence that working in an environmentally themed setting has a positive impact on all of these variables, and that particular experiences – notably experiences in back‐of‐house animal holding areas and with animal staff – are key. These findings suggest that further investigation into the impact of working in such learning settings could be fruitful in understanding the role that the work place plays in supporting the free‐choice learning of staff. This is important both from the perspective of the staff themselves, and in relation to the impact that these individuals may have on visitors to free‐choice learning settings.