Knowing what you should do and doing what you should do are two very different things.
When a chimpanzees refuses to cooperate with the daily routine, you should take the opportunity to problem solve. Why do they refuse to shift? Are they anxious about being confined to certain areas with other chimps? Is there something about the space they won’t leave that is particularly appealing to them? Or are they simply looking to exert control over their environment? Then you use your hypotheses to create a plan. For example, you could desensitize them to whatever is causing their anxiety through positive reinforcement, make the other areas more appealing to them, or find other more fruitful ways for them to exercise their autonomy.
What you shouldn’t do is catch them off guard and close them out when they least expect it. But like I said, knowing and doing are two very different things! This is why I like teaching – the students never have to know that you can’t even follow your own advice.
Our latest example of what not to do involves Honey B. Honey B has decided that the Mezzanine does not need to be cleaned. We beg to differ, as do our licensing and accrediting agencies, one would assume. So each morning after breakfast, when the playrooms and greenhouses have been cleaned, we ask her to leave the Mezzanine so we can wash it down. And each morning she politely declines.
Now, one day without cleaning is not that big a deal. It’s not routine but it happens. But after two days we have a problem. And this morning, Honey B was looking to throw another wrench in the works. After several minutes of pleading with her, I gave up and accepted defeat. Honey B would get to keep her Mezzanine – and its mess – yet again.
Later in the afternoon, I walked through the greenhouse hallway and was greeted by Honey B. It occurred to me that I just walked by Mave and Willy B in the playroom. THE MEZZANINE WAS EMPTY. We didn’t have much time.
I grabbed my radio.“J.B. to Anna…No one is in the Mezzanine now if you and Kelsi want to close the door!”
Upon hearing the sound of the hydraulics, Honey B headed towards the Mezzanine but the door was already closed. Feeling guilty, we gave her and the gang some gum and jumped into cleaning like a NASCAR pit crew. Pick up! Rinse! Scrub! Rinse! Squeegee! Put out fresh blankets and enrichment!
As the locks clicked shut we did our final security checks and we were ready to let her back in. I knew that she’d be so relieved to be back in her favorite space.
I opened the door and she…just stayed in the playroom.
Well, at least we have more data for our problem-solving sessions, once we finally get around to doing the right thing. And maybe a new hypothesis: She just likes the mess?
If you’d like to help Honey B create more messes and help us continue to clean them up, please check out our wish list full of enrichment and supplies!