I had to submit a writing sample for my overseas study blogger application, and this is what I came up with. Baby I was born to zoo!
This summer I’m working with the day camp program at the Memphis Zoo. I was a counselor at an overnight camp last summer, which has proven helpful in that I know how to communicate with—and sometimes persuade—kids. What last summer did not prepare me for was the “hippocampi” or the “gorilla dog,” which is to say that our clientele at zoo camp is quite unique. We get kids who love animals, kids who love mystical and mythological animals, and also kids who love to make up animals.
Example 1: There’s the well-behaved kid who announces his favorite animal is the penguin, whose face lights up later on in the week when a (real live!) penguin visits the class, walks around and nibbles at shoelaces.
Example 2: There is also the kid who announces her favorite animal as the “hippocampi,” which makes everyone stare confusedly at her and inevitably ask, “What in the world is a hippocampi?” It turns out hippocampi are a mythical combo of horses and fish. It also turns out that “hippocampi” is plural and “hippocampus” is the singular term the camper should have been using all along. I, of course, pointed this out to her on the last day of camp (thanks for your help with that Wikipedia), renewing her enthusiasm toward the magical seahorse looking thing while also giving her a crash course in Latin.
Example 3: And then there’s the kid who makes up his own animals (or at least we think that’s what happens). When a camper draws a “gorilla dog” in his zoo camp journal (which is supposed to contain drawings and descriptions of animals seen at the zoo that day), it understandably evokes strong reactions from other seven-year-old campers sitting near him. He promises it’s a real animal, but he does this with his usual cunning grin, the one that makes us doubt there’s any truth behind what he’s saying. After some Internet searching, I found out that the existence of the gorilla dog is a REAL rumor, complete with photoshopped images that depict a dog’s face on a gorilla’s body. Honestly, I would have believed it too when I was seven.
It’s collectively all these types of kids, along with the many others in between, that make my days tiring but interesting, that give me great stories to tell over the dinner table and that motivate me to make my 40-minute commute each morning. So thank goodness for the hippocampus and the gorilla dog, and for the young minds that bring such things to my attention.