Name: Christina Michelle Davis
From: LOS ANGELES, CA
School: Immaculate Heart High School
I stood at the entrance of the exhibit admiring the large animal. He
was a spectacle to be seen: around three hundred pounds of pure
muscles. His silver hair shone in the summer sun as he casually ate
lettuce while observing those observing him. A group of children ran
to the front of his exhibit with wide, sparkling eyes. “ Wow, what
a cool monkey!”, one exclaimed as the gorilla began to slowly walk
towards them. “I’ve never seen a monkey so large” another said
with a gasp. Upon hearing this, I could not help but pause. Being a
volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo for over three years, I recognized
what they were saying was incorrect: gorillas are not monkeys, they
are apes. I knew that not telling them that they were incorrect would
be wrong, but I also did not want to appear as though I was a
braggart. For a while, I stood and pondered how I would educate the
children in a proper manner. I realized that I would need to figure
out an interesting way of presenting the truth to the children in a
way that would not offend but, rather, engage them. I considered the
extensive training I received in the Los Angeles Zoo’s Student
Volunteer Program for dealing with children and automatically knew
how to speak to them.
I slowly approached the children and leaned in.
“Why do you think this is a monkey ?” I asked the children.
They looked at me with blank faces. Once finally confessed, “I am not
I crouched down and stretched out my hand. “ Look at his hand then
look at mine. Do they look similar? I asked.
“They actually do!”
“Well, does he have a tail ?” I said.
“No.”, they said together.
I turned around. “Do I have a tail ?”.
“No, you don’t.”
“Well, I’m not all that different from him then, am I? “
They smile and said, “I guess you’re not”,
I went on to explain how humans and gorillas are actually in the same
family with other species like orangutans and chimpanzees. As I
spoke, their faces glowed with awe and amazement. They were shocked
at how closely related they were to something that looked so
different from them. When I finished speaking, they ran to their
parents and proclaimed their new revelations. In situations like
these, I immensely appreciate the knowledge and training I have
received as a student volunteer. I have learned to confidently
interact with visiting patrons of the zoo through fun and innovative
activities that allow me to teach them about the conservation and
preservation of several animal species. In doing this, I have been
able to exercise my extensive animal knowledge while helping others
discover new facts about animals they had never known before. As a
volunteer, I have come to realize that I have an enduring passion for
animals that constantly challenges me to teach people in a unique way
that captivates their attention and fuels their excitement.