Zoo Guilt

I LOVE going to the zoo.  As a child in Chicago, I was a big fan of Lincoln Park Zoo.  Brookfield Zoo was probably bigger, but as I remember it, there was a lot more concrete.  Lincoln Park was parky (duh).  It had lots of trees and plants and a fantastic baby animal nursery where you could see the newborns through glass like you would in a hospital.  Baby Animals = Little Girl Nirvana, in case you didn’t know.

My husband and I visited the Houston Zoo occasionally.  Good zoo but somehow we always seemed to visit on the hottest day on the planet.  When the kids came along in Austin, we visited the San Antonio Zoo and had some truly memorable encounters with meerkats and a 3 foot tall crested bird which decided to investigate our son’s stroller.  As it stood up on the front rail of his stroller, the entire room fell silent.  The excitement of the close encounter and the fear that this bird could at any moment lean down and remove some important bit from Russell, our one-year-old, took our collective breath away.  Russell, an outgoing fellow who never met a stranger,  displayed his blossoming intellect by keeping still as a statue and dead silent.  Good boy!  All bits are still intact to this day (knock wood).
Living in rural Tennessee, we are fortunate to have a wonderful zoo an hour away in Memphis.  My favorite thing to do with my class each year is our field trip.  Many of them have never been there before.  We preview our trip by looking at photos from previous trips and checking out the “panda cam” a few weeks before.
Once we arrive the “newbies” are absolutely overcome.  At first they stand wide-eyed and open-mouthed in the Cat Country exhibit.  Then they realize that there’s lots more to see and they start to zip back and forth between exhibits (God bless parent chaperons).  It’s a challenge to keep them moving together but give them enough time to have a good look.  The memories from this trip last all year.
Of course, as much as I like the zoo, I am still overcome with guilt.  Zoos have come a long way since the cement room and metal bar days, but the animals are still captive, safe, but captive.  While it’s important for my students to see animals up close and in person, maybe someday there will be a better way.  I suddenly feel the urge to collect zoo and webcam sites.  Actually, I’d like to go to the zoo, but it’s 9:00 p.m. and the lion sleeps tonight.  Weeeeee weee oh a wee mum mum  away.

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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I know I’m not the first to notice, but the web has an amazing way of making celebrities out of everyday people.  Often they are not even aware of their status.  When I watch Dr. Wesch’ Anthropological Look at Youtube which he presented at the Library of Congress www.youtube.com/user/mwesch I can’t help but feel that he is flabberghasted by the fame of his “Text is Linear” video. His emotion is couched in a fascination with the anthropological implications of the new linkings available through the world wide web. His work is brilliant and insightful and deserves every bit of attention it gets.

bud-the-teacherThis weekend I met some other celebrities at a retreat for the National Writing Project. I was amazed when I realized the regular guy sitting at my table was actually ‘dogtrax’ a blogger I’ve been following for quite some time through Ben Davis’ collaborative blog, teacheng.us. I tried not to ogle like a pre-teen at a Jonas Brothers gig, but I suck at hiding my excitement. Luckily, moments later, “Bud the Teacher” was unmasked as the big guy with the piercings. Of course, I shouted “You’re Bud the Teacher?” eliciting a roomful of laughter, covering my already awestruck state of mind over dogtrax. Ain’t life grand?

As we finished for the weekend, I said goodbye to these lovely nerds and tried to express how much I enjoy reading their work. Bud the Teacher actually denied his guruishness self! He doesn’t seem to think he does anything special and perhaps Dogtrax thinks the same way! These guys are my kind of celebrities. They have NO CLUE what an impact they have made in the world. You’ve got your celebs who’ve been around a while like Kevin Rose whose career blossomed on TV. Now, the TV appearances are completely superfluous to building celebrity. Word of mouth has been replaced by word of web so these everyday people, doing what they do because they enjoy it, achieve a sort of notoriety which is perhaps better than the traditional celebrity. There is probably a greater degree of privacy afforded the new celebs. There is more choice. Keep your life quiet uncluttered and nerdy, or create a video for youtube and let your wild self get famous!

And here’s an addendum:  I spoke to a colleague about meeting these fellows and by lunchtime she reported that she had actually seen a reference to Bud the Teacher on Choice Literacy today.  She had never ever heard of him before.  Let’s talk.  Should we change the Kevin Bacon Effect to the Bud the Teacher connection?

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 1:38 am  Comments (2)  

National Writing Project Web Presence Retreat

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Denver with a group of fantastic people from the National Writing Project and projects around the country. I’ve come back inspired and rejuvenated.  Through a variety of exercises and discussions as well as a lot of reflection, we have the beginning of a plan to upgrade, update and move our website uptown.  I am so grateful to these wonderful folks for their fabulous brains and their terrific dedication.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment