Sugar from the Sun Front-End Evaluation
The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance is developing Sugar from the Sun, a project consisting of a 5,400-square-foot exhibition intended to help children and their families explore photosynthesis. This immersive exhibition will use real plants to delve into the process that plants use to manufacture sugar (food energy) from the sun (light energy).
Selinda Research Associates (SRA) conducted a front-end evaluation as part of the exhibit development process. The first phase examined what was known in the research literature about the public's understanding of photosynthesis and also about creating successful immersive experiences. The second phase of front-end evaluation, and the focus of this report, assessed visitors' understandings of the scientific concepts presented, determined potential visitors' perceptions, connections, and experiences with the topics, and identified challenges and potential entry points.
This evaluation was grounded in naturalistic methodology (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The primary data collection method for this study was depth interviews, combined with an activity serving to map visitors' concepts about photosynthesis. Respondents for this study were purposively selected (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Interviews were conducted with four West Side community members (Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Austin, and Lawndale) as well as casual groups visiting the Conservatory. Selection criteria also included a mix of gender, ethnicity/race, group composition, and age. In all, we interviewed 31 groups for a total of 94 respondents. Interview times ranged between 20 and 45 minutes. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using inductive constant comparison (Lincoln & Guba, 1985)