Rebecca Johns, Ph.D.
Christopher Meindl, Ph.D.
Kathleen Gibson-Dee, Ph.D.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
March 21, 2020
Our society faces escalating environmental challenges with catastrophic implications. Environmental education (EE) is essential for creating an informed and active citizenry prepared to address urgent ecological problems. With a reach of over 195 million visitors annually, and diverse visitor demographics, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks are uniquely positioned to be critical centers of non-formal environmental education. This research investigates adult EE programming at zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks in Florida, and provides a comparison of their focus and trajectory against EE programs in flagship zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks throughout the country. Placing Florida's EE programs in the context of national trends helps to identify strengths and weaknesses of current educational programs at facilities in the state and at flagship facilities around the country. Zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks across the nation are rife with best practices, applying unique and innovative EE opportunities. Florida has the potential to move from "ground zero" for climate change to an epicenter for social change. Zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks can help get us there.
Pontes, Rachelle, "Environmental education at Florida zoos, aquariums, and animal-based theme parks in a national context: A comparative analysis" (2020). USF St. Petersburg campus Master's Theses (Graduate).