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Things a Rock Has Taught Me

By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo

 

This summer I decided I needed a motivational tool to get the Audubon Zoo campers and their staff out into the zoo more. I painted a stone black and yellow, gave it big blue google eyes and named it “Brenda Bee”. Each week the rock was hidden somewhere on zoo grounds (over 50 acres) and the camp group that finds it would win an ice cream party. No clues are given on the first day, and then each day that it is not found another clue would be given. This is what I learned:
1.       Motivation isn’t that complicated. I believe that even if an ice cream party wasn’t given as a prize these campers and staff would be out there seeking the rock. It was something new and it was definitely a challenge, with no clues being given on the first day there is a lot of zoo and exhibit space to look for a fist sized rock. It could be anywhere and they loved it! They planned their days around getting out into the zoo before the other groups or exploring areas where they knew the other groups wouldn’t look.  The campers discussed it all day long and even the youngest campers would come up to me and try to get clues.
2.       Small children have eyes like hawks and eagles. I tried very hard to make this rock well hidden. I climbed to the top of a Mayan artifact in Jaguar Jungle, put it on the top and a branch over it and a camper walked by, looked up and spotted it! I got a ladder and put the rock in the palm of a fiberglass Komodo dragon 10 feet tall, the next day a camper spotted it. I had the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit keepers go into the swamp camp boat and stick it on a shelf next to something the same color.  I was sure they would never find it.  A camper looked over the boardwalk rail and spotted it!
3.       Adults still like “hide and seek”.  Head counselors (these are Certified Teachers) were anxious for clues, asking about rules and tricks. Education staff began to ask weekly where the rock would be, did anyone find it? Could they hide the next one? Animal staff discussed great hiding places, they tried to outdo other sections, and they gave suggestions.
The bee rock has only two more weeks of hiding left. One eye has fallen off and the paint is chipped. She had a good run and I will definitely paint her up again next year, give her some new google eyes and she’ll be ready to motivate campers to explore the zoo. In the meantime my brain is working on how I can get a rock to work with the zoo guests, get them to explore every inch of this beautiful zoological garden and have great fun doing it. I think the rock can do it-stay tuned.

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