Tag enrichment

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy …*

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy ...* | rethinked.org

Artist: Jack, Western Lowland Gorilla | Source: BioParkSociety.org

The abstract masterpieces of such unlikely artists as Prehensile Tail Porcupines, goats, hissing cockroaches and vinegaroons (had to Google that one) are sure to infuse your Wednesday with a hefty dose of wonder and delight. This budding art collective is the result of an enrichment program from the ABQ BioPark Zoo. The therapeutic and enriching benefits of painting, it would seem, extend to animals. “Getting them to use their brains and to figure things out keeps them happier and healthier,” says zoo manager, Lynn Tupa.

The animals at the ABQ BioPark Zoo have learned to paint as an enrichment activity, purely for their own pleasure and mental stimulation. To ensure that painting remains enjoyable for the animals, the opportunity to paint is an occasional treat, not part of their daily routine.

From primate Picassos to buggy Botticellis, our stable of talented animal artists has increased this year to provide an even greater variety of original masterpieces that will thrill collectors and animal enthusiasts alike. Choose from a number of genres and styles that include (but not limited to) elephants, gorillas, parrots, marsupials, alligators, insects and more!

Head over to the Bio Park Society website to view (and perhaps purchase) the paintings (all done with non-toxic tempera paint) by this unlikely band of artists. All proceeds from the paintings directly support that animal’s program at the ABQ BioPark. You can also ‘meet’ some of the artists through their endearing online bios. From Shona the Warthog, who has found the activity “very therapeutic since her mate, Chip, recently passed away,” to Sarah the Orangutan who, “reserves her favorite colors, like silver, to paint her hands and feet and uses her least favorite colors on the canvas,” (a girl’s gotta have her favorite things), you’ll learn about the unique manner in which each artist approaches his or her craft and some intriguing facts about their species. Some of the animals, like Crocket the Raccoon, have instantly taken to the activity while others, like Tonka the Orangutan, are more reticent. “His appearance is very important to him. He will pick up his very long hair as he tries to avoid mud puddles. This is why we are still working on his painting. He goes to great lengths to avoid getting his hands dirty and will continuously wipe the paint off them.”

delight, wonder & rethink …* 

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Artist: Calloway – Banded Armadillo | Source: BioParkSociety.org

If Only There Were More Time…

Is there a way to give teachers the time to experiment with their lessons and their classrooms?  Most teachers try out new ideas every year, so we could just say that experimenting happens, and that’s that–no problem to address.  But at the DT4E conference we were exposed to a different type of experimenting that demanded rapid prototyping, uninterrupted focus, and time to reflect.  As the group reimagined a library for the 21st century, we covered the Riverdale cafeteria with models and full-size sets, all made in less than an hour.  The creativity was remarkable, and I think that everyone felt more optimistic about successfully incorporating new ideas into their own teaching.

It’s hard to see teachers experimenting during the school year the same way we did at the DT4E conference or the same way they would in an explicitly experimental setting.  That doesn’t mean that teachers can’t experiment in their classrooms during the year; it’s just hard for them to experiment as deliberately and thoroughly as they might during a less harried time.  School days are crazy and frenetic, and finding time for reflection and analysis is no easy task when there are papers to grade, meetings to attend, and emails to answer.

Fortunately, schools have three months of every year when they aren’t in the go-go-go mode that makes authentic experimentation so difficult.  What if schools used their campuses as educational laboratories during the summer?  This program would be more than the summer day camps that many schools offer during the summer.  It would require students to be participants in K-12 research, and the focus would be on teacher enrichment, though the students would learn plenty as well.  One school could gather teachers and students from many surrounding schools so that the program would feel different than the academic year, with a different mix of people and a different sense of purpose.  Younger students could be enrolled in what looks like a summer camp, causing little change to their plans.  Older students could be paid an hourly rate to be in laboratory classes for a few weeks each summer.  These days teenagers are in need of jobs (teen unemployment was at 24.6% at the beginning of June), and plenty of teachers would be willing to sign on for some extra productive work during the summer months (stipend provided, of course).  Teachers could try new ideas, get feedback from real students, adjust their approach for the following class, and prepare for the coming school year in authentic, innovative ways.  Rapid prototyping, tailored for education.

Just an idea, one obviously in need of some further thought (and some funding), but it could easily lead to some fantastic new ideas in K-12 education.  Then again, maybe this idea has already been implemented elsewhere.  If it has, please post the info.

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