Wednesday, April 8, we found ourselves in the middle of a school yard surrounded by kids and adults, all asking questions and looking at the truckload of statues with wonderment. (Read Rick’s previous post, Statue Tour: Swinging through the Southwest.) Can you imagine being in your classroom and seeing a mammoth family and other Pleistocene animals drive up and park right next to your playground? I don’t know about you, but that definitely would have left an impression on me!
We were able to talk directly to over 80 elementary school students yesterday (and all the teachers and administrators that were there) about extinction and conservation. What a great opportunity! I absolutely love the enthusiasm children bring to this discussion, and many of these kids were very knowledgeable about fossils and what extinction means. From information about current species that are alive today to facts about our truckload of ancient animals, these kids were happy to learn more. My only regret is that we can’t go to every school in the nation.
One of my favorite things to do when working with kids is to ask them what they think and then just step back and listen to their ideas and knowledge. I asked this group, “Why do you think the San Diego Zoo is bringing a truckload of extinct animals to the Zoo all the way from Wisconsin?”
Their responses were perfect! One boy answered, “Because you guys want to teach us about extinction and animals.” And another girl replied, “The Zoo is trying to save animals and wants to show people the animals that are not here anymore.” Of course there we plenty of other great answers, but I can’t list them all.
After two hours of talking to the kids (8 groups every 15 minutes), I was exhausted but smiling from ear to ear. Matching each group’s energy and enthusiasm with my passion was very satisfying and personally rewarding for me.
Now I’m back in San Diego. In fact, by the time you read this I am sure the statues will be at the Zoo and probably being prepped for getting settled into their permanent home. This wraps up one of the many adventures I am having as Elephant Odyssey Ambassador!
Rick Schwartz is the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey Ambassador.