Dolphin Connection Blog - May 201005/14/2010
Every day at The Dolphin Connection we field hundreds of questions from our guests. Not surprising, since thousands of people turn to us each year in hopes of making new discoveries about dolphins, our natural world, and how to conserve it. In fact, it’s the purpose for our existence – to educate. But recently we were asked a question that completely stunned us – “Do you provide meaningful public education?” Are you kidding me? After we recovered from our initial shock at this amazingly naive question, we took it upon ourselves to examine the factual evidence, as any good scientist would do. We first turned to our survey results – derived by randomly picking a cross section of guests that participated in our interactive programs. The survey results for 2009 were impressive! A whopping 83% of our guests rated the educational content of our programs as “excellent”. In addition, 82% indicated they learned something new about dolphins, 89% about how dolphins are trained, and 92% about our highly successful breeding and marine science programs. But it keeps going (can you stand a few more numbers?) - 61% indicated they learned something new about ocean conservation as a result of participation in our programs, 58% about oceans, 56% about coral reefs, and 55% about how they could make a difference. Wow! Okay, so we have to admit, we were already confident that people were learning from us – I hope you’re not surprised by that statement! But what are they doing with this knowledge? Are they being inspired to act positively on behalf of conservation? Man, is that a hard thing to measure! So in an effort to ferret out an answer, we turned to our “thank you” files – yup, the place where we keep all those lovely cards and letters you send to us – you didn’t think we threw them away, did you? Here’s a glimpse of what you had to say: “Thank you for letting my family and I participate in your dolphin connection program. Now every time I go to the beach I remember to pick up a piece of trash or plastic.” “Thank you very much for the wonderful opportunity to swim and play with the dolphins at your facility. I truly enjoyed every second of it. Being able to experience the hands on interaction with the dolphins was a lot of fun. Not only did I love being in the water but I also enjoyed the educational part too! I never knew that it takes so many years for trash to disintegrate. The following day I picked up a plastic bottle that I saw on the ocean floor as I was snorkeling. It’s sickening to think that someone would just toss a bottle in the ocean.” Our guests are learning – check! Our guests are motivated to contribute to conservation – check! Which leads us back to the original question - Is this “meaningful public education?” Well, Webster’s dictionary describes the word meaningful as purposeful, significant. Since our purpose is to educate through direct contact with marine mammals and we have significant information that indicates our approach is successful, our answer is “Yes, The Dolphin Connection does provide meaningful public education.” We hope you knew that answer in your heart long before we went through the long process of proving it…isn’t science wonderful!