Issues with Water Quality: How Do We Get Our Fellow Citizens to Care?

Issues with Water Quality: How Do We Get Our Fellow Citizens to Care?

Rhana Smout Paris (North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9559-7.ch009
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Abstract

Research in how people attend to, process and recall information tells educators that there are better ways to present the case for clean aquatic environments so citizens will understand, appreciate, and care for water resources. Gone are the days of shocking the public with photos of dying fish or burying them in mountains of scientific facts. From creating a story to using tangibles and intangibles to weaving explanatory chains with appropriate metaphors, this chapter presents thirteen components of a well-designed message to present to an audience, a board or a grant provider.
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Introduction

Formal education is different from non-formal or informal education. Formal educators have a captive audience, one that could be subject to subsequent tests of covered concepts. Non-formal educators do not have that advantage. Their audience, by definition, is there by choice and could leave at any moment. Non-formal educators are employed at cultural and natural history sites like parks, zoos, aquaria, and museums where they provide instruction through presentations, referred to as non-formal education. These professionals also produce displays, handouts or other materials as informal education. These educators are often called interpreters as they interpret the resources of their sites to visitors of many ages and abilities. Interpreters must use a variety of techniques to capture and hold the attention of an audience while furthering the mission of their site. The objective of this chapter is to present several such interpretation techniques.

Background

One goal of interpretation is for the audience to understand the meanings and workings of a resource. Interpreters also strive to develop an emotional connection between their participants and a resource. They cultivate this appreciation through interpretive techniques. It is hoped that through this developed emotional connection that these citizens will take steps to preserve the resource in question for future generations. Interpreters are an integral bridge between science and the general public in the efforts to encourage citizens to understand and appreciate clean water and to take necessary steps to improve and maintain water quality in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Armed with important, timely information on the issues and causes of water pollution, how does an interpreter encourage his fellow citizens to care? Flood them with horrifying facts of imminent death if current water issues are not solved? Appeal to their love for aquatic animals? Tout the potential, undiscovered medicines and food supplies that these aquatic environments may hold?

Research in how people attend to, process and recall information reveals that there are better ways to present the case for clean aquatic environments so citizens will understand, appreciate, and care for water resources (Bales, 2009). The purpose of this chapter is to present information to enable speakers, whether interpreters or private citizens, to better inform their audiences about environmental concerns like water quality. Here are fourteen techniques shown to be successful in helping an audience achieve positive engagement with presented scientific information.

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Match The Scope And Scale Of The Problem To The Scope And Scale Of The Solution

Is the scale of a water issue shallow or deep? Is the scope of the solution broad or narrow? One needs to match the scope and the scale for maximum benefit to the problem at hand.

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