Were there any summer camp experiences that changed your life? For one 8-year-old attendee of the Detroit Zoo’s Summer Safari Camp, the world is a lot bigger, his voice more strong.
The Detroit Zoological Society offers many education programs for children of all ages, and Asher, 8, had a particular interest in what is known as the Eco Camp. His mom, Amy, said that while Asher has always been empathetic towards animals, having the opportunity to learn more about the Zoo and the animals residing there was exciting to him.
One aspect of camp in particular stuck out the most for Asher: storytelling time. Education Specialist David Gakure, who was born and raised in the Republic of Kenya, encourages children to find their voice. He aims to create a place where children feel comfortable to speak up and share their stories. David uses a variety of methods to help children feel comfortable and bring out their voice. He encourages children to share stories about animals and nature by prompting them with questions. Every time the opportunity arose to tell a story, Asher always raised his hand. At the end of camp, David encouraged the children to go out and write down their stories. Asher took the idea and ran with it, writing a 12-page short story, titled “The Fox in the Stormy Night”, as well as a book of 14 animal poems, called “The Marching Lion”. He mailed copies of his work to the Detroit Zoo, much to the delight of staff. Asher’s mom, Amy, said he has written 10 more short stories since.
“Asher has always had a natural talent for writing, but his time at the Zoo really helped to bring the talent forward,” she said. “He had an unstructured space to share his stories; it encouraged him to share them in a way where he always felt comfortable. He wasn’t shut down.”
Finding your voice and sharing it with others is not always easy, especially for children. Asher didn’t realize how big his voice truly was until his experience at Summer Safari Camp.
Click here to learn more about the Zoo’s education programs.