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I Am A Rock Star
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
I am a “rock” star now. Last night I was enjoying some thin fried catfish at a local restaurant and I heard small voices behind me, “That’s her! Hey, Miss Brenda where did you hide the bee?” Last week as I was sipping a cup of coffee a little girl pointed at me and whispered to her father “That’s the lady that hides the bee!” The bee they are referring to is a crudely painted river rock with large blue googly eyes (looks a little like me in its shape and the eyes.)
This non-technical rock has amazing abilities. It gets (and keeps) the kids outside and challenges them to look and travel to places in the zoo that they might never go to. Each week I hide the “bee” in a zoo location that fits the theme of the week. They get a clue for every day that they don’t find it. The zoo camp group that finds the bee gets an ice cream party. The problem is that children are extremely competitive, really like ice cream and can spot this rock with their keen eyesight in a matter of hours. I have worked really hard to be clever in my hiding of the “bee”. I have placed a ladder on a golf cart and hid the bee in the crook of a tree 12 feet high-they found it in six hours. I climbed into the creepy “Loup Garou” exhibit in the Louisiana Swamp exhibit and hid it so that only a tiny portion peeked out of a shoe-they found it in 5 hours. I had a friend cross a stream and scale a wall in Jaguar Jungle to hide the rock- they found it in 4 hours! The longest it took them to find it was 29 hours when the Louisiana Swamp keepers dropped it into the catfish tank.
I started hiding the bee last year to keep the campers motivated to go out into the zoo more frequently and for longer periods of time and with a goal of fine tuning their observation skills. It has been more successful than I ever imagined. Many of the zoo campers tell me that looking for the bee is their favorite part of zoo camp. I am so happy! There are no batteries, no breakable parts, no costs and yet the entertainment value is through the roof. I believe with all my heart that for children to reach their full potential unstructured outdoor play is necessary. Audubon Zoo Camp may send home the dirtiest campers in all of the city, but they are exposed to animals, nature, free play and exploration. You can thank a rock for that.