The Sensory Safari

Charli Saltzman

I mentioned in a previous post about how I love to be able to know what things look like by feeling it. For example, I know what a dog looks like because I’ve touched plenty of them before, but what about a bear? Sure, I have an image in my head of what a bear looks like. It’s probably big and hairy with sharp teeth and claws. When I was little, I’m pretty sure I thought a bear was just like the teddy bears I had at home. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t attempt to walk up to a real bear at a zoo. Not sure how it would have reacted if I would have tried to hug it. Pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today if that was the case. Anyway, while I had an image of lions and bears in my mind, I didn’t know what they looked like.

When I was still in school, my Braille teacher would take a group of us up to Lincoln Children’s Zoo for the fabulous Sensory Safari event. The purpose of this event was to allow blind children to touch furs, stuffed and mounted animals, and claws to get an idea of what a particular animal looked like. Each year, I looked forward to this event. First, it meant we could get out of school, second, because I got to take my lunch and have a picnic at the zoo with my friends rather than sitting in a stuffy cafeteria, and finally, because I loved animals. Usually, they had the petting zoo open as well, so we did get a chance to pet the goats and llamas. I think the best thing, though, is being able to see what a fox looked like and to feel buffalo skin and pelts. There was also a huge, mounted bear, and I remember taking my picture with my hand in the bear’s mouth. Sadly, I don’t think I have that picture here otherwise I’d post it.

This sensory safari experience made the zoo fun. Sometimes when I went to the zoo, I would get bored because I’d just stand there. However, you don’t get bored at the sensory safari. There is always something to touch, some sort of noise to listen to, and you keep busy the entire day. I always have fun memories of attending this event and thank my Braille teacher for taking the time to drive us up there. Thank you to Lincoln Children’s Zoo for allowing this event to take place. Now, with the sensory safari, blind children can see what their sighted peers see. They won’t have to guess because this event gave them this information. And also, thank you to all that volunteered and helped out. Those volunteers are very much appreciated by those of us in attendance. The sensory safari is a great place to learn new things and be educated about wild animals. I know I learned a lot.


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