California State University,
Wildlife Education and Attitudes Toward
[Barbara Wilkinson received her M.A. in Educational
Psychology from California State University, Northridge, in spring 1997.
She is interested in innovative educational programs about wildlife for
children of all ages and wrote her thesis on
multimedia wildlife education.]
Wildlife education enables children to understand the
importance of including animals in their view of the Earth.
Wildlife education "should result in positive changes in knowledge,
attitudes, awareness, and actions toward wildlife" (Morgan and
Gramann, 1989). "Since attitudes encompass both feelings and
beliefs, they have both affective and cognitive components.
Feelings and beliefs are generally directed toward decision-making,
and therefore are important elements of perception" (LaHart, 1978).
Perceptions influence the way individuals evaluate the external
world. An examination of the sources where children are learning
about wildlife can determine whether this type of education is
Most academic sources, in general, focus on the knowledge
component of education. "Learning about animals in school appears
to be so divorced from direct encounters with animals in their
natural habitats that little basic understanding and lasting
knowledge results" (Kellert and Westervelt, 1983). Encyclopedias
and related books include factual information with some drawings or
pictures, but are presented in a rather uninteresting way for
children. Literature and newspapers are less focused on factual,
identifying information about animals, but most children's
storybooks personify animals. They do not educate about real
animals in their natural habitats. Newspaper coverage of wild
animals, except those focusing on human based events, is minimal to
Our opportunity for exposure to wild and international animals
is limited to visiting a zoo. Although the primary reason cited
for visiting a zoo is for the educational benefit of children,
Kellert (1980) has shown that the resulting knowledge scores were
not significantly different from those of non-visitors. Morgan and
Gramann feel that "zoological parks, classrooms, and wildlife
sanctuaries are places where animals often are 'merely exposed' to
onlookers" (1989). Even owning a pet only slightly raises
knowledge scores (Kellert, 1980, Ascione, 1992). However, those
who belonged to wildlife and/or environmental organizations or who
watched animal-related television programs had significantly higher
knowledge scores then any other group studied. Therefore,
wildlife-oriented activities appear important in the development of
knowledge (Westervelt and Llewellyn, 1985, LaHart, 1978, and Eagles
and Muffitt, 1990). It may be that regular learning about wildlife
in their natural habitat results in higher knowledge scores than
more isolated learning experiences such as visiting a zoo.
Learning about animals in their natural habitat may result in
higher knowledge scores than would lessons on animals in school,
consisting mainly of animals in the classroom or experiments in
science class, which can result in limited knowledge about a few
Kellert conducted a five phase report for the United States
Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. From 1977
through 1983, knowledge and attitudes towards animals were
evaluated using survey and interview style questioning. Responses
from children and adults from the United States were evaluated
regarding knowledge and attitudes towards domestic and wild
animals. Knowledge was assessed from a score on a true/false test
of factual information on a wide variety of animals. Attitudes
were determined by like-dislike responses to a list of animals.
The attitudes were broken into categories, described by the
following nine types: naturalistic, ecologistic, humanistic,
moralistic, scientistic, aesthetic, utilitarian, dominionistic, and
negativistic. These attitudes were defined as follows.
- Naturalistic is the primary interest and
affection for wildlife and the outdoors.
- Ecologistic is the primary concern for the
environment as a system, for interrelationships between wildlife
species and natural habitat.
- Humanistic is the primary concern and strong
affection for individual animals, principally pets.
- Moralistic is the primary concern for the right and
wrong treatment of animals, with strong opposition to exploitation
or cruelty towards animals.
- Scientistic is primary interest in the physical
attributes and biological functioning of animals.
- Aesthetic is primary concern in the artistic and
symbolic characteristics of animals.
- Utilitarian is primary concern for the practical
and material value of animals of the animal's habitat.
- Dominionistic is primary interest in the mastery
and control of animals typically in sporting situations.
- Negativistic is primary orientation for an active
avoidance of animals due to indifference, dislike or fear.
In Phase V of this study, Kellert and Westervelt (1983)
focused on the attitudes of children from second through eleventh
grades. A general tendency was found, for all the children
surveyed, to feel mainly anthropomorphic attachments for individual
animals such as pets or "lovable" animals, the humanistic attitude.
The humanistic orientation is to hold certain animals, especially
pets, in high regard but not animals in general. This attitude
remains in spite of very different experiences with animals at the
different grade levels. Younger children were more likely to have
live animals in the classroom and to go on trips to see animals.
Older children were more likely to have conducted experiments on
animals. Further, "no significant difference was found in the
knowledge scores of children who did and did not learn about
animals in school" (Kellert and Westervelt, 1983).
Phase III of this study showed that the pervasive nature of
this attitude is also present among adults, especially females and
those living in cities. A resulting consequence is that "this
challenge to wildlife programs will become even more real as
society becomes more urbanized and more young people and females
assume policy-making positions" (Westervelt and Llewellyn, 1985).
Eagles and Muffitt, using the same definitions as the previous
study, surveyed the attitudes of Canadian children from 12 to 14
years old. The attitude scales were also adapted from Kellert,
with changes to make the questions easier for the children to
understand. Like the United States study, they found the most
common attitude among the Canadian children towards animals was
humanistic. The authors also found that attitudes of those
children who read about wildlife had higher naturalistic and
scientistic scores, compared with non-readers who had higher
utilitarian scores. Those children who watched television wildlife
programs had significantly higher scores in those attitudes
"valuing wildlife in its natural environment" (Eagles and Muffitt,
1990). These findings suggest that those children who are
interested in watching or reading about animals also have attitudes
carrying higher regard for animals.
Some children read or watch fictional stories about wildlife,
including those considered classics. Fictional stories written
about animals have changed over the years to reflect our changing
attitudes towards them. Oswald (1995) stated that "the definition
of animal hero in realistic animal fiction generally changed from
wild animals that were heroic for surviving against all odds to
domesticated animals that were heroic for rescuing humans from wild
beasts." Human characters have become central to the novel and the
greatest level the animal can attain is to have a relationship with
the most humane character. The author feels that this increase in
romantic and unrealistic descriptions of animals in fiction is due
to a reduction in accessibility to wilderness areas and wild
animals. She concludes that there is a serious problem when this
over romanticizing occurs in children's novels because they may
come to expect real animals to act as the fictional characters do
and therefore "may be disappointed and disillusioned by real animal
behavior" (Oswald, 1995).
Ascione (1992) showed in his review of the literature that
children's attitudes about animal-related issues can be enhanced
either by a focused classroom presentation or by reading materials
and media presentations. The author suggests using the National
Association for Humane and Environmental Education's curriculum
guides, which are integrated into classroom lessons throughout the
school year. They include role playing and creative writing. The
purposes and goals of these guides is to "assist children in
developing compassion, a sense of justice, and a respect for all
living things" (Ascione, 1992).
This wildlife education must go beyond information about
animals because knowledge about animals and attitudes towards them
have only a low correlation. Merely providing information about an
animal increased knowledge but did not promote more positive
attitudes (Morgan and Gramann, 1989, LaHart, 1978). A research
review article by Kameron (1973) on how individuals perceive the
world concluded that "a person's world view is a result of the
'real world' and attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Knowledge
was not considered as an independent variable" (LaHart, 1978).
Morgan and Gramann (1989) found the combination of message based
and non-message based approaches provided significant increases in
positive attitudes. Unfortunately, some subject matters such as
wildlife issues are difficult to implement non-message based
approaches. The authors suggest that when we are unable to
incorporate non-message based approaches such as modeling,
"attitudes might be enhanced by using a message that focuses on
those aspects of a target species that are most salient to an
audience" (Morgan and Gramann, 1989). For example, show the
audience a picture of an elephant picking up a stick with its trunk
and explain that their trunk is used much like a human hand.
Kellert (1981) found that interest in local animals is greater
than either national or international animals. African animals,
classified as both international and non-domestic, would therefore
be assumed to have low status among Americans. Yet the African
elephant represents one of the most familiar and popular animals in
the United States. In the Kellert and Westervelt study, it ranked
eleventh out of 33 animals on the children's rank order of animal
preference and ninth among adults (Kellert and Westervelt, 1983).
Both Cynthia Moss and Ian Douglas-Hamilton observe elephants in the
wild and write about their experiences. Their books contain a
large and varied selection of photographs. Oria Douglas-Hamilton
wrote The Elephant Family Book, which describes these animals at a
level appropriate for elementary school children.
According to photographer Mitsuaki Iwago, the lion is the most
popular animal among the sightseers on an African safari. His work
concentrates on lions and his books include observations about the
lions he photographs. Angelika Hofer and Gunter Ziesler's book,
The Lion Family Book, illustrates these animals' lifestyle for
younger children. Telling stories about wildlife, with photographs
showing the animals, directed toward younger children may
facilitate the interest in animals that is present in those older
children who belong to wildlife organizations and watch wildlife
The appropriate and most influential age for children to be
exposed to animal education has been estimated by several
researchers. Westervelt and Llewellyn (1985) found that
environmental education programs are most commonly found in grades
11 and 12, which is after attitudes toward wildlife have been
firmly established. "Attitudes toward consumptive and
non-consumptive uses of wildlife appear to be well formed by the
time young people reach eighth grade" (LaHart, 1978). When
describing the developmental progress of the second through
eleventh graders, Kellert and Westervelt found that second through
fifth graders were characterized by changes in affective and
emotional concern for animals. And "in general, the transition
from fifth to eighth grade appeared to signify basic changes in
intellectual and cognitive understandings of animals" (Kellert and
Westervelt, 1983). "Several authors suggest that at this age [10
- 12 years old], students are actively searching for more
information about animals, their attitudes toward animals are still
forming, and therefore excellent opportunities exist for fostering
an appreciation for the natural world" (Westervelt and Llewellyn,
Interactive Multimedia Instruction
In addition to literature, magazines, and television programs,
interactive multimedia computer programs are also available for
children as learning tools. Computers are currently available in
most schools and are being purchased and installed in more schools
across the country every year. Currently, the computer labs in
schools are mainly used to teach programming, for example to use
Macintosh's LOGO program to create a picture. "Some students, who
had developed an expertise in programming, believed that their
teachers were not knowledgeable enough or that their computer
classes were too elementary" (Beyond Technology's Promise, p.103).
When computers are used as learning tools, "most students thought
learning is more exciting with computers ... a majority of students
stated that they learn 'better' using a computer" (Davidson and
Ritchie, 1994). Children use home computers mainly for playing
games. Educational software designers have recognized the
attraction to games, and have responded by incorporating a
game-like format to their programs. As a consequence, "they
permitted children to obtain winning scores by playing the game in
a rapid, repetitive, mindless fashion that precluded learning the
material the program had been fashioned to present" (Lepper and
Multimedia instruction can include features to attract and
hold attention, provide students with lesson information, and
contain features to facilitate learning the material. Norman
believes that the electronic classroom goes beyond computer labs to
provide "a unique potential for the interactive and collaborative
learning of any subject" (1994). The program being evaluated by
the author includes interactive screens, animation, and computer
access to assignments and readings. Designers must integrate
learning principles with multimedia capabilities for effective
instruction. To accomplish this goal, "programmed instruction
requires the highly disciplined application of learning techniques
such as shaping, fading, priming, and prompting" (Bostow et al,
1995). Further, the authors assert that "someone must organize the
interchanges between student and machine into a sequential series
of small steps, each small step being a component leading to the
desired terminal performance" (Bostow et al, 1995). These
interchanges must predict and address ideas that are difficult,
resulting in the illusion of the computer answering questions posed
by the student.
The interactive multimedia instruction can create an
exploratory environment where the student plays an active role in
the learning process. Arnone and Grabowski compared program
control, learner control, and learner control with advisement for
learning and curiosity in first and second graders. The program
control condition provided a linear path through the lesson. Under
learner control condition, the user could choose from multiple
paths through the lesson. Students who had control over
sequencing, pacing, and remediation, combined with advisement to
use the "stop and think" option scored higher and spent more time
on task than under the other conditions. In addition, the authors
feel this condition resulted in higher scores because it provides
the most interaction between student and computer. The learner
control with advisement condition also "generated the most
questions and the most independent ideas" (Arnone and Grabowski,
Rosenzweig sees electronic media as "extremely good at
condensing large amounts of data in small amounts of space"(1993).
This and the wide variety of media available for his subject matter
prompted him to convert a history book into an electronic book
which included audio, film, and pictures, combined with non-linear
search features, using Hypercard and Macintosh. The same hardware
and software combination was selected when an electronic guide at
the Museum of Dion in Greece was developed in 1993. These authors
selected the Macintosh because of its reliability and friendly
interface and Hypercard because it is the first and most widely
used multimedia authoring tool. Hypercard and Macintosh provide a
relatively simple authoring tool to create learning environments in
a wide array of settings.
An advantage to multimedia authoring tools is the ability to
include pictures and audio so children can look at and hear about
the animal simultaneously. Researchers have said that lessons
using two modalities increases learning. Small et al. (1993)
conducted four experiments comparing recall of information about
animals with and without pictures of the animals. Their results
showed that the pictures facilitate recall whether the information
is present in the prose and the picture or only in the prose. This
effect does not exist for information in the picture, but not
addressed in the prose. The picture was even helpful when the
information in the prose was not obviously illustrated in the
picture, so long as the picture was relevant to the prose. The
effect was present for familiar and unfamiliar animals, which is
important because children may be familiar with some of the animals
and not others.
Many suggestions have been made to assist designers intending
to make their programs more user-friendly. Dessipris et al. (1993)
suggest inserting a help button on each screen, and conducting a
pilot study looking for screens on which users hesitate due to
feeling lost, then making changes to ease the navigation.
Rosenzweig (1993) provides his students with over 200 excursions,
or side trips, that elaborate on some fact or idea from the main
text. The use of "quicktime" has enabled him to incorporate films
into some of these excursions. Schweir and Misanchuk, in their
book Interactive Multimedia Instruction, outline the many ways to
approach lessons that are available in this media, such as
simulations and tutorials. In creating education tools, objectives
and learning styles must retain their importance, while elements
such as aesthetics, ease of navigation and help segments must also
be given consideration.
Educating children about wildlife reaches beyond learning
facts about animals to an appreciation, affection, and respect for
these living creatures. Much of what we teach children passes on
the attitudes and values of the society. As we become more
urbanized, our personal experiences with animals becomes more
isolated, much of the time being limited to domesticated pets. The
pervasive attitudes towards animals is described by researchers as
humanistic, which singles out pets and "lovable" animals as
recipients of affection while showing little appreciation for
wildlife in general. Without firsthand experiences with wildlife,
much of urban America has come to depend upon wildlife
organizations, publications, and television programs to educate
forthcoming generations. In the 1990's, children are becoming
enamored with computer technology. The popularity of computer
games, internet, and equipment is reaching children at a younger
age. The advancing technology is resulting in more user-friendly
computer programs. Also, there is a trend for computer programs,
such as the internet, to be exploratory in nature. This format
transfers very well to educational programs in general and to
wildlife programs in particular. Photographs, movies, audio
recordings of animal sounds and narration can breathe life into
these animals. In addition to factual information, stories with
pictures can add an element of familiarity and identification for
these little known animals.
With knowledge and understanding, children can come to
appreciate the animal's unique qualities. This requires time and
effort, so the learning tool must capture the children's interest
and provide continued curiosity throughout the lesson. "More
ambitious and imaginative efforts are required as the eventual
condition of wildlife will, of course, depend on the future
commitment and concern of today's children" (Kellert and
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