This past Thursday I spent time with a fourth grade class at Shelburne Community School. I taught them about basic characteristics of apes, what species constituted the group "ape," and what was so special about the way gorillas think. Though I had done the research months ago and have had some time to mentally process the implications of communicating with another species, I forgot just how amazing Koko's accomplishments are. Seeing a group of 21 kids reacting to this information for the first time, I was reminded of just how insane it all is. They enjoyed the stories I had to share about Koko, and got to watch several videos of Koko in action. They were thrilled when they heard I would be coming back to talk to them again on Monday. Since the highlight of the first presentation was Koko, it will be more difficult to keep them engaged in the conservation aspect, since Koko is not a part of it. Overall, I feel great about how this project wound up.
The biggest issue I've been facing has been cutting back my plans. There's so much I want to do for this cause, and I just don't have the time to commit to it. I've scaled it back in such a way that I'm still addressing all three prongs of my original (extensive) plan: awareness, education, and fundraising. I'll be running a green grey coin drive to raise funds, creating an elementary school curriculum, and making a poster campaign. I'll also be posting my curriculum on Roots and Shoots.
This week I got my proposal back with feedback and spent most of my time working on editing down my proposal. The main thing I've focused on is eliminating redundant projects and fine tuning what I'm hoping to accomplish. I also laid the groundwork for several different projects, like getting the contact information for an elementary school teacher at Shelburne Community School and doing some more background research. I'm hoping to finish some components over Christmas break, like the informational poster campaign or the introductory morning meeting announcement. I also want to start sending emails to administration members about a potential movie screening, because that's the component of the project that I think will take the most planning and the most notice.
I am currently in the part of the project that is always most difficult for me: getting started. I've been having an especially hard time given all of the other moving parts in my life right now, like Single Author and college applications. All things considered, my plans are still moving forward. I recently had a good talk with a 4th grader (my sister) from the Shelburne Community School about what activities are most successful in her class, and figured out what kids in her age group would find most interesting. I also got the contact information for the teacher of her class, and am planning on contacting her over the upcoming break. I am excited that although I haven't had as much time as I would hope to devote to this, I am still making progress putting together one of the most important pieces of this project. I am very excited to get the chance to talk to younger students about primates and teach them about conservation.
While my work on this project has been rewarding so far, I've come to realize just how difficult fundraising can be. You can only ask for many so many times and in so many ways without antagonizing the community that you're trying to get support from. In addition, most of my ideas are long term (within the scope of this project) campaigns that need a certain amount of work to get off the ground. There's so much happening during this month of senior year that it's been difficult to make that happen. Hopefully I'll be able to lay the groundwork over Christmas break.
The other thing I need to do is figure out which parts of my proposal I want to execute. Several of my ideas rely on pathos, and I don't want this to be too sad. I've been struggling to balance engaging the community and actually conveying information. I know that I care deeply about this subject, and I really hope that I'll be able to make others care as well.
Coming up with an action plan has been trickier than I originally imagined. Because my topic isn't one that has a ton of local resources that I could take advantage of, I'm finding that I need to think outside the box. The main focus of my campaign will be education, so I'm hoping to get into a couple of elementary schools, run a poster campaign/fundraiser, and provide a week's worth of lessons for the VCS 10th grade evolutionary biology class on human evolution and how it relates to primates. I will also put together a portfolio of lab reports describing the many species of primates as a standard for how lab reports should look, as well as to have on file for any future conservation efforts led in either Encounter Week or R + S form. The fundraising campaign will begin with a Green/Grey contest coin drive, with the proceeds going to adopting a gorilla on behalf of the VCS community. Following that, I'll create a more widespread fundraising initiative that will target the broader community, which will also play into the poster campaign. This whole process is trickier than I imagined, but so far it seems that the planning stage will be the hardest.
The vast majority of footage of Koko takes place in the last decade or two. One of my main recurring thoughts while watching the remarkable videos was, "This is absolutely amazing! But how did they teach her?" That was when I happened upon a 1978 documentary entitled Koko-- A Talking Gorilla. It's focus was on her younger years, and the research that was conducted on her adolescent mind. The movie also delves into her social relationships, and the rate at which she learned to speak using American Sign Language (ASL).
Koko-- A Talking Gorilla https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NwCrXVUm_Q