Have Slides–Will Travel
Jane Hall and Mary Lou Drake
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
“Have Slides–Will Travel” is the account of how on-site slide programs for school youngsters evolved into programs which we take to seniors in their retirement and nursing homes, their centers and clubs. This activity has expanded and enriched both their world and ours.
In 19911992 the Cincinnati Zoo’s school services department received requests from teachers for students to shadow keepers to learn what they actually do. This was not feasible, so the department suggested that we create a program using slides taken of zoo employees doing their jobs. Using their own writing and photography skills, docents produced the program, had it reviewed by our school services director, announced it in the school services bulletin, and a whole new educational opportunity was born.
Ideas began popping. Our cat show lady, Cathryn Hilker, inspires us all with a love of cheetahs, so a predator/prey script utilizing cat adaptations was written. The program included a live demonstration with the show cats, but the numbers proved unwieldy, so “Cheetah” remains with slides only.
A retired professor, whose passion and expertise involved bats, joined us and promptly gave us a great program on the flying furballs, enhanced by both professional slides and some of her own slides and biofacts.
From this point, docent interest and enthusiasm as well as additional requests from teachers resulted in a current library of fourteen programs. We will be showing you a sampler of slides from each of these. At this time, too, the need to organize, to become an entity, was perceived. A name, “Conservation Series,” was chosen. The series has been extremely popular–in one year it was seen by 10,000 children; “Zoo Careers” being by far the most popular title.
In 1977 one of our docents took a program to a retirement home. A second volunteer, whose former life had involved administration of senior facilities, wondered aloud about bringing the zoo to these folks, many of whom were no longer able to get to zoo grounds. The volunteer office was receptive to the idea, our man had the contacts, and a small focus group of activity directors was invited to see and hear what we had to offer. About this time a regular meeting of the area’s program directors was scheduled, and our presentation was received with enthusiasm. After all, what’s not to like? These folks are always looking for fresh program ideas and here we were–and free to boot! “Have Slides–Will Travel” was born.
How does this all work? We will explain our sources of funding and how networking benefits a number of agencies, how we have organized, who does what, training, equipment, logistics, publicity, and, of course, some pitfalls and challenges. And we are open to new directions. Soon we hope to have a new tram up and running so that more mobile seniors can following their viewing with a special on-grounds tour or have it in combination with a slide show.
Why do we reach out to these older folks? Well, technically our zoo comprises sixty-seven acres, but a zoo is not its geographic boundaries–its outreach is worldwide. We are in action in Kenya, Surinam, and Trinidad. The zoo is a microcosm of a larger universe, and our audience is a part of this. Our mission is to be inclusive. Beyond this we can help enrich lives as our pictures and talk trigger memories and experiences. They can feel a part of the real world–the natural world–so their vision expands if only momentarily. Many of them have family who enjoy the zoo, and so now they can share experiences.
And for us? Well, some of our older friends do doze off the minute the lights go down. But there are always some like the diminutive, twinkly lady who recently told me of a happy zoo experience from when she was six–and she is now ninety-six! How can we not be there?