I was invited to speak at the Hekab Be library in Akumal last tuesday (February 12th, 2014). I had gladly accepted, as I already have a presentation which I offer at hotels. The panic set in later when I was told my audience would be 3-to-12 year olds. I´ve taught at the high-school and junior high level, but had never dared deal with kids any younger. I have a lot of respect for grade school teachers- they are far braver than I.
The first thing I had to do was forget about my ready-to-go presentation and come up with something completely new. I worked till past midnight the day before, trying to get things just right. And then the day of the big event, my computer refused to open the files I had created just a few hours earlier. My battle with technology is a permanent one, and I´ve learned not to get so frustrated. So I stepped back, contemplated the situation, and when I returned it was with the right strategy. I tricked the machine, and achieved my goal. Full of confidence from this small victory, I headed to the library.
When I began the older students were clearly not interested. Not only did they sit at the back of the room, they dragged their chairs back there to get away from me. The smaller ones on the other hand, sat up front and were full of enthusiasm. However, it was a chaotic excitement. The smaller ones are also the least reasonable, and it was they who participated the most. I felt the whole thing becoming dangerously incoherent. I was about to lose control. It was going to be a disaster.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed how the older kids were creeping forward silently. Somehow I´d gotten their attention. They raised their hands. When they spoke they made sense! They asked relevant questions. They saved me. I´m sure they didn´t do it on purpose, I just somehow got through to them. I cannot explain what it was that changed, but a few minutes later we were all laughing together.
I finished by gifting them copies of my book, and rather than running out to play, many stayed behind leafing through it.
They thanked me. They told me how they also wanted to be biologists. We took a group photo.
It was a beautiful experience and one which I hope we can soon repeat elsewhere. If you would like to support this project, please buy one of my books. Or if you are an entrepreneur and would like to sponsor our Education for Conservation campaign, please contact us.