Family discourse on an arboretum nature trail: explorers, protectors, rememberers, and sticky features

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement



First Page


Last Page



arboretum, botanical garden, family learning, Family science, informal education


© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Every year millions of families visit arboretums and botanical gardens, but tittle research has been conducted into the complex processes at play on a family nature hike. This qualitative study sought to better understand the roles family members play during the hike, the elements of the trail which they mention, the cognitive level of their questions, and the levels at which the conversations occurred. We followed nine (N = 9) families on hikes at the Houston Arboretum and collected with audio recordings, observations, and a researcher journal. Key findings include that questions asked on the nature trail tended to be low level while discourse overall showed higher levels of rigor. During their hikes, family members took on the roles of Explorer, Protector, and Rememberer. Moreover, features that family members saw became ‘sticky’ features, meaning they were mentioned later in the hike even when the object was not present. The results of this research have important implications for the way informal educators think about the importance of the interactions among family groups. Parents and children interact on nature trails in ways that lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world.

This document is currently not available here.