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The Zoo Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke

by Hal Evan Caplan
September 20, 2008

The Zoo Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned TykeMy little tyke is my teacher and it just puts a smile on my face when I see him do something positive that my wife and I have tried to ingrain in his head. Some times I forget the things that we have taught him...better yet I forget to act on the things that are important. Don't you worry, because my teacher hasn't forgotten and believe me sometimes I feel a little embarrassed, well, because I should know better... and he reminds me through a lesson. This is just another reason why I consider him my teacher.

We often visit our local zoo. We have been visiting the zoo pretty much since he was 2 years old. Since that time we have maintained a yearly zoo pass. This pass is a great tool because if you visit the zoo enough throughout the year, you can actually save a lot of money. I think we may be at the point, since we have been so much, that the zoo should just pay us to walk in. Wouldn't that be nice?

My teacher knows the zoo like the back of his hand and he plays tour guide when we visit.

"Over here is the Tiger, his name is Kamal." He states as he showcases the exhibit waving his hands like Vanna White.

"... and these are the monkeys, but I don't know their names since there are too many of them."

"This is the food place and they make really good grilled cheese."

The funny thing is, I'm not really sure who he is talking to because most of the time it's just my teacher, my wife and me. Occasionally he goes into "professional tour guide mode" when another family happens to stroll up and look at the same animal.

Because he is a junior professional tour guide, he even knows when the animal shows start, not by actual time, but a system rather loosely based on "early morning, mid-morning or afternoon". It certainly doesn't hurt that each show is announced over the loud speakers placed throughout the zoo. His favorite is the sea lion water show. On the day of this lesson, we were on the other side of the zoo when he heard that the sea lion water show was going to start in 5 minutes.

"Dad, I need to tell you something important." He said.
"What is it?" I asked.
"We need to hurry." He expressed.
"We need to hurry, where?"
"The sea lion water show starts in 5 minutes." He emphasized as if I didn't even hear the announcement.
"Well...okay, let's go." I responded.
"Let’s run!" He suggested as he took off.

I took off after my teacher as we both raced towards the sea lion water show. Little did I know that my lesson was about to begin during this sprint from one end of the zoo to the other. I felt like those people running through airports in a last ditch effort to catch their plane, or more to the point, to get to the gate before they close the door to the jetway.

Just before we arrived at the arena for the sea lion water show, my teacher came to a screeching halt.

"Dad." He roared. (Pun intended)
"What?" I questioned.
"Hello." He replied.
"What?" I questioned again because I really had no idea what he was trying to tell me.
"Um... look down!" He demanded.
"Yeah, the pavement is there..." I commented.

He stood there with his arms crossed and tapping his foot, like he was the parent and I was the child in trouble for something. Apparently, I ran over a few pieces of trash and didn't really notice it.

"Where does trash go?" He questioned as if, again, he was the parent.
"In the garbage." I replied.
"I think we should help out and throw it away." He insisted.
"I think that is a great idea." I agreed.

He grabbed a few pieces and I grabbed a few and we threw the trash we had picked up in to the trash can just before we entered the sea lion water show.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: Don't be a litter bug, and actively protect the environment you love.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.


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