It was International Macaque Day 2018 in the Brown Bears (three-year-old) classroom. I showed my students pictures of different kinds of macaque monkeys and told them about how I lived across the world and took pictures of animals who ate fruit that people grew in their gardens. I showed them an article in a kids’ magazine about my graduate advisor (Dr. Erin Riley) and explained that she was my teacher- the person who taught me so much about macaques. We counted the macaques in each picture. We discussed which ones were grown-ups and which were babies. I told stories about what it was like to see monkeys in the forest and pointed out the island of Sulawesi on a cartoon map.
Aubrey raised her hand, her brow deeply furrowed.
“Ms. Alison, why monkeys like bananas just like us?” she asked.
“Because they are healthy and delicious!”
Then the kids happily scribbled away, coloring the masks that I had spent their nap time printing on card stock, cutting out, and painstakingly forming eye holes. Morgan’s was mostly purple, with orange and red cheeks and yellow highlights. Emily’s was unfinished- colored in beautifully on one half, white on the other. Still, she held it proudly to her face with its popsicle stick handle, no doubt smiling behind the mask. She is, after all, the kid who belted out, “Happy birthday to you. I live in a zoo!” on everyone’s birthday, hilariously mistaking the pronoun and claiming to live in a zoo herself instead of insulting her classmates with the silly song. Ashton, the graphic designer’s son and class artist, colored in each section carefully, choosing colors that complemented each other. He used an impressive combination of markers, crayons, and colored pencils for varied texture. Brandon Banana, on the other hand, made a few quick, blue scribbles, announced, “I’m done.” and pranced off to play with magna-tiles on the alphabet carpet. Levon worked diligently on what we called his ‘Polka-Dot Rainbow Macaque’ with its bold, primary colors.
The kids kept saying the word ‘macaque’ out loud as they colored. It shot out of their little mouths like a series of threatening accusations followed by giggles.
“MAH-CACK!” Hehehe. It was so much fun to say. Now ‘monkey’ was simply too boring.
Fun was had by all. And their parents surely got a primatology lesson that night 🙂