What’s in your Pocket? Tools of the Docenting Trade
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
When I asked one Docent what they carried in their pockets – they answered with: lint, band aid, tissue, a safety pin & a tissue.
Although some zoos do not allow Docents to carry any thing other than their zoo owned “biofacts” many Docents have their own collection of “show & tell” items. I have found that it is advantageous to be able to show them something to get them to talk with you & thereby give them Education.
Of the 27 years that I have been a Docent at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, I have attended approximately 18 AZAD Conferences. At an AZAD Conference many years ago – I listened to Jeanne Collier from the Los Angeles Zoo. She suggested that we carry small items to entice people to speak or listen to us. I do not pretend to measure up to Jeanne Collier but I have tried to listen to some of her ideas.
What we carry in our pockets can open the lines of communication with the Public. They may see what is in our hands & start that communication. As a Volunteer at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, I love to volunteer in the Manatee Region. You may call them areas, biomes, or zones. (By the way – the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium currently has 4 Manatees: Stubby, Bernice, Tippy, & Hamilton.)
I LOVE to volunteer in the Manatee Area. I always have 4 things in my pockets or backpack:
- A Stuffed Manatee – so I can show how Stubby has lost part of her tail from a boating accident.
- A Small Plastic Turtle – so I can show how Buddy, our Hawk’s Billed Turtle, has somehow lost parts of his flippers.
- A Sting Ray Tooth – to show how their teeth stack in there like a brick wall to crush clam shells.
- A Plastic Sting Ray – to show where the stinger is.
Jeanne Collier’s Pocket — 1990:
- Peanut – Fed to Gorillas to help with boredom
- Chocolate Kiss – in the time it takes to be eaten, another football sized section of the rainforest has been destroyed.
- Ivory soap – only kind of “Ivory” to buy
- Bubble Gum – found in the Rainforest
- Small Glasses – Nictitating membrane for eye protection from sand, etc (as in birds & repiles).
- Purple Ribbon – length of an Orangutan’s Arm Span – approximately 88 inches
- Kangaroo Embryo – Size of a Kangaroo when it crawls to the pocket OR Lima Bean. OR – size of your own thumb nail.
- Perfume – To talk about scent marking by some animals
- Brazil Nut — Scarlet Macaw can crack it with its beak
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Pocket:
- Plastic Bag – thickness of a bat’s wing
- Sandpaper – cat’s tongue
- Lima Bean – Koala or Kangaroo baby
- Macaroni – bird bone
- Curtain Ring – Large Curtain Ring that is of the size that a Silverback Gorilla can wear
- Penny – weight of 30 eagle feathers or heavier than the smallest bat
- Purple Yarn (Or Piece of Felt, Inner Tube, etc) – Okapi or Giraffe tongue ( 14-18 inches )
- Hershey’s Kiss – in the time it takes to be eaten, another football sized section of the rainforest has been destroyed.
Glenn Carson’s Pocket:
- Teeth – Lion, Zebra, Human, Cownosed Sting Ray (Her husband is a Dentist)
- String Knotted at Wingspan of Sparrow, Falcon, etc
- Different Pieces of Fur (From Taxidermist)
- Bear Claw, Lion Claw, Eagle Talon, Warthog Horn, Etc
Sue Kiebler has in her Pockets:
- Alligator Tooth
- Kangaroo Baby
- Plastic Ring
- Rigatoni Noodle
- Elephant Foot Peelings
- Pencil Urchin Spines
- Sharks Tooth
- Fish Scales – Black Drum & Pirarucu – From the Amazon
- Small Stuffed Manatee
- “Injured” Plastic Turtle
- Cow Nosed Sting Ray – made by carving a Manta Ray – to show where the stinger is
- Cownosed Sting Ray Tooth – Along with a diagram to show how teeth crush shells.
- Small Toy Football – the feel of a Rhino if you put powder on it
- Tagua Nut – Should wear this instead of Ivory
- Pad of Paper
- Poems – So the Children can finish the last line
- Turtle Shells
- Bison & Pronghorn Hair – show the texture
- String – 140’ – to show the length of the Manatee’s Intestines
- Empty Pound Box for Butter – to show the size & weight of a bear at birth
- Magnifying Glass – to explore different surroundings
- Gorilla Handprint
- Orangutan Handprint
Resource People who help contribute ideas for this paper:
Jane Barron – Zoo Atlanta
Glenn Carson – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Fran & Tol Cheshko – Phoenix Zoo
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Docents – MANY of them
Jeanne Collier – Los Angeles Zoo
Cindy Fruitman – Denver Zoo
June Quraishi – Bergen County Zoo
Pat Wilson – Memphis Zoo