Childhood Imaginations Sparked by Tales of Wild Cats and Big Safaris

As I visited a local classroom in Atlanta, Georgia, to share my adventures in safaris across the globe, I was reminded of how stories from far off places captivate and entertain children of all ages.

The group today was the Kindergarten through fifth grade class whose classroom learning this month centered around animals. Each age level had their own curriculum and activities but the principal and teachers thought bringing a “safari expert” to tell tales of adventures from far away lands would spark the childhood imaginations to begin projects relating to their own created adventures.

Big cats are often one of the first animals children learn about through movies such as Lion King and other real to life movies. My photos and video of live cats drew screams and squeals, especially those photos with the lions and leopards growling at us or taking a stabbing movement with their front paw to nod us away.

I brought maps of Africa, Australia and New Zealand as this is where most of my adventures on safari took place. In setting up the maps, dozens of questions and self-proclaimed geographers stood up to explain what these countries were and where they were located. Most were on target. New Zealand through most for a loop and even after learning the name, no one could not identify where on the globe it was located.  Someone thought it was Greenland.  Next time I speak before students I will bring a globe of the world to put these countries and continents in their correct locations. And maybe we’ll have a guessing game of where to place the countries and what is next to them.

Maybe we’ll also guess at climate and temperatures. Having the full globe in view should help.  Although this maybe dating me as I understand many classrooms no longer have the spherical globe I grew up with and now rely on their computers. Which I think makes it difficult to place areas of the world when everything things seems “flat”.  Although this didn’t stop Newton. So perhaps these children will have inherent depth and perspective skills.

When the video started there were screams, laughter and ahhs as the children were surprised by the up close shots and even more surprise that I took this video in person. They wanted to get near big cats as well and asked how they could do this?  And the elephant video with the elephants feeding at the trough delighted all viewers.

Most of the questions centered around how I go to these places, what was it like to live in a tent and could I pet any of the animals.  Really, quite a mixture of insights and expressions. Many of the students would eventually have to write something about the day so I had some great detail questions for factual information.  But you could tell the creatives from the numbers people as some wanted to know about colors, textures and how did I feel?  While others wanted to know how much food the animals ate each day, how many times were the fed and did I get to hand feed the animals on the preserve.

It was a wonderful learning experience for me as well as the children.  I look forward to another visit to this large group to see the outcomes of their projects and talk more about Big Game, wildlife and big cats across the globe.