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Visitor StudiesFront-End Studies

This front-end study was prepared for an October 1997 workshop held at the ASTC annual conference in St. Louis, Chemistry Exhibits That Work.

The Chemistry of Living Things
Synopsis of a study done by Science Learning, Inc. for the New York Hall of Science

Visitors' Expectations of COLT
Visitors were asked what they expected to see in an exhibit called The Chemistry of Living Things (COLT). They were also asked about what particular subject they were interested in. Percentages of people polled and what they indicated (multiple answers = greater than 100%).

44%
Information about how the human body works or what its made of. Cited subtopics:

  • blood and blood typing
  • O2, H2, and the things that make up living cells
  • enzymes, catalysts, and how they work
  • diseases
  • immune systems in plants and animals
  • genetics, DNA, RNA
  • how the body uses food
  • aging
  • the brain
  • the building blocks of the body

29%
Atoms and molecules. Cited examples:

  • atomic structure
  • electrons
  • structure of elements
  • if every living thing is made up of atoms, how are things different

24%
Science experiments

21%
Other answers. Cited examples:

  • how things are
  • cell processes
  • microbes and things
  • how does an H (hydrogen) bomb work
  • food chemistry/digestion

15%
Plants

12%
Evolution

Compilation of most popular topics.

Nine topics presented in the survey

  • disease
  • how the sun's energy is converted to food
  • where energy comes from to help us move
  • how you tell different odors
  • how atoms become molecules, and molecules are involved in the way our bodies work
  • information about genetics and why we look like our parents
  • how everything is made up of atoms
  • how chemistry makes us think, see, and feel
  • how scientists learn about the chemistry of living things

Rank order:
Below the rank number entry is the percent who chose it as first and second choices.

1) information about genetics and why we look like our parents
47% first, 16% second

2) how chemistry helps us think, see, and feel
3% first, 34% second

3) how you tell different odors
9% first, 13% second

4) how scientists learn about the chemistry of living things
9% first, 0% second

5) how the sun's energy is converted into food
6% first, 0% second

6) diseases
9% first, 3% second

7) energy to help us move
12% first, 0% second

8) how everything is made up of atoms
3% first, 0% second

Notes:
The visitors were also asked to choose the topic that seemed the least interesting to them. A number of visitors had trouble choosing one that seemed uninteresting, but the majority chose either "how you tell different odors" (36%) or "how scientists learn about the chemistry of living things" (36%).

To a lesser degree, some visitors (9%) were uninterested in "how atoms become molecules and how molecules are involved in the way our bodies do things." Some of them thought the topic seemed too complex.

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