Family Learning & Exploration Tools Study

Families attending two recent spring programs at Shaver’s Creek were invited to participate in a new research study on family learning and how they might use science-like, exploration tools during a hike.

At each of these programs, families were given the opportunity to fill a small backpack with tools to use on their hike: magnifying glass, bug box, butterfly net, field guide (various topics), Pocket Naturalist® guide (various topics), field compass, map of Shaver’s Creek, notepad/pen, and binoculars.

Two Penn State College of Education graduate student researchers using audio- and video-recording, photography, and field notes accompanied the families to observe and document their hiking experience. In addition, each participant voluntarily completed a survey about what items they chose, what items they actually used on the trail, and what items they wished they had while hiking. 

This research study is conducted and supported through a partnership between Shaver’s Creek and the College of Education at Penn State and hopes to add a significant contribution to both the fields of informal education and environmental/science education.  An additional outcome of this study is to inform the design of self-guided family experiences at Shaver’s Creek.  In the future, families may have the option to check out backpacks with hands-on tools, field guides, and trail-specific information packets to enhance their hiking experience at the nature center.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Lucy Richardson, Shaver’s Creek Graduate Assistant and Researcher, at

Stay tuned as this research progresses!

~ Lucy (Malachite) Richardson

One thought on “Family Learning & Exploration Tools Study

  1. This is such a great example of how Shaver’s Creek supports the Teaching, Research and Outreach missions for PSU! Thanks for your good work Lucy!

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