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Interested in more information about getting a Nature Exchange?

The Nature Exchange is available as a turnkey package for quick and easy installation at any location that has a minimum of 80 sq.m (800 sq.ft).
Science North works hand in hand with the design team at Aldrich Pears Associates to design and bring the Nature Exchange to facilities that are looking for an immersive, nature based experience.
The package includes:

  • a custom floor plan that includes complete architectural and interior fit up
  • start-up stock inventory of natural items
  • all cabinetry, cabinetry lighting, furniture, signage, computer station, bins, labels
  • a basic reference collection
  • supplies for workshop activities including a microscope
  • training and operations manuals
  • education workshops and curriculum-linked programs
  • a week-long training visit at Science North for 1 staff person
  • a week-long installation and training period at your facility, for up to 30 people.
  • Nature Exchange database and software ongoing support


$250,000 USD + an annual fee of $1000 for ongoing support and updates

Proven Success...Research & Evaluation of the Nature Exchange
Science centers, museums, zoos, aquaria- all centers for informally learning about the natural world around us - offer visitors exciting opportunities to explore scientific ways of thinking. Increasingly, educators, researchers and funders alike are looking for research-based evidence that visitors to these attractions are not just exploring these ideas and approaches, but are actively learning from them.

Science North offers a post-Graduate Diploma in Science Communication as a collaborative program, offered jointly with Laurentian University. This is the only graduate program in Science Communication in North America. The cornerstone of the program is the ability for the Science North Research team to analyze and publish reports on impact of the visitor experience.

In order to better understand the nature of learning at the Nature Exchange, Chantal Barriault, Co-Director of Science North's Post Graduate Diploma Program in Science Communication, investigated the behavior of visitors as they interacted with the Nature Exchange to determine if there were consistent patterns of behaviors that occur which indicate learning is taking place.

This published research is titled 'The Science Center Learning Experience: A visitor-based approach'.
The research concluded that there are eight discrete learning behaviors that occur as part of the Nature Exchange interaction, and that these behaviors can be grouped into three categories that reflect increased interaction and depth of involvement.

Initiation behaviors:

  • Testing out the activity
  • Spending time watching others engaging in the activity

Information and assistance offered by staff or other visitors
Above all else, visitors need to "feel safe" about committing themselves to engagement with an activity, especially in a public setting. Initiation behaviors enable them to "test the waters" with minimum personal risk and can be seen as the first step in learning.

Transition behaviors:

  • Repeating the activity
  • Expressing positive emotional responses in reaction to engaging in the activity

Smiles and outbursts of enjoyment along with repetition indicate that a level of comfort has been achieved and that visitors are comfortable ... and even eager ... to engage themselves more thoroughly in the activity. Regardless of whether the activity is repeated in order to better understand it, to master the functions or to observe different outcomes, the net outcome is a more committed and motivated learning behavior.

Breakthrough behaviors:

  • Referring to past experiences while engaging in the activity
  • Seeking and sharing information

Engaged and involved: testing variables, making comparisons and using information gained from the activity
Each of these behaviors acknowledges the relevance of the activity, and the learning gained from the activity, to the individual's everyday life. A personal level of comfort has been established that encourages a free flow of ideas and exchanges, and enables real learning to occur.

The Learning Behaviors in the Nature Exchange

Breakthrough Behaviors

An analysis of the visitor experience in the Nature Exchange indicates that visitors quickly pass through the first two behavior categories and that high levels of

occur on a regular basis.Visitors involved in trading commonly refer to past experiences when presenting an item for trade, either by mentioning where it had been found or how they discovered its identity. For example, children describing their items to the staff person explain it this way: "I found a beaver stick when we were camping in French River..." or "I found this in a raspberry patch near my house"Seeking and sharing information are behaviors that permeate the entire Nature Exchange experience, both before and during the visit.

Visitors seek information about their items for trade before coming to the Nature Exchange and are eager to share this information with the staff person. Information shared ranges from "this rock has a lot of colors" to "this is fluorite...when we scratch it with a metal nail, the hardness test tells me that it's fluorite".

Behavior that is engaged and involved is exemplified most profoundly when visitors describe their items, discuss the observations of their item and draw conclusions about their item with the staff person.

The trading activity is very involved, lasting from five to forty minutes. This level of engagement and motivation indicates a rich learning experience about the natural items brought in by the traders and encourages a commitment to learning outside the science center and into the home and everyday environment

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