The Memphis Zoo is truly one of the city's greatest treasures. I mean, seriously. Having been there many a time, I always find something new to appreciate about it. This weekend, however, I saw the zoo through new eyes: as an eye health advocate and volunteer.
This past Saturday, I joined over a hundred SCO faculty, students, and staff (spread out over two shifts) at the zoo for "Eye Spy: A Day at The Zoo." Headed by Dr. Zakiya Nicks, this event aimed to educate children and their parents about the importance of eye health. Hopefully, in the process they would also have a lot of fun, and I think we were hugely successful in both regards!
We spread out all over the zoo in several different stations:
1. Do You See What "Eye" See? An Adventure in Optical Illusions
Participants at this station learned about how optical illusions work. After all, everyone loves optical illusions!
2. Night Owls: A Dark Journey Into Night Vision
This one must have been a lot of fun for the kids. They learned the difference between day vision and night vision, and also got to complete a challenge in the dark.
3. Move, Move It: Keeping Track of Eye Movements
At this station, the zoogoers learned about eye movements. This was complete with a cool giant eyeball that I think was created by Dr. Schnell (see picture below).
4. Eagles Eyes: A Closer Look at Great Vision
Here, the participants learned about conditions requiring prescriptions, such as myopia, hyperopia, etc. Then they got to try on some minus lenses, plus lenses, etc. just to test their skills at a beanbag toss.
5. Monkey Around in the Sun: Be Wise, Protect Your Eyes
UV light is everywhere. That's why it's important for kids of all ages to protect their eyes from UV damage by wearing sunglasses, hats, etc. Also, bracelets were made here (mine is pink, and yes, it's still on my wrist.)
6. 3D Vision: What's the Buzz About 3D?
This was actually where I was stationed, and it was so much fun. I, along with a few others, showed the kids (and many a parent) about how 3D vision works. My favorite part was getting the kids to put on the polarized glasses. Then, I'd show them this one stereo test with an image of a giant fly on it. If they were seeing it properly, it would appear to come out towards them, and it was fun prompting them to "pinch its wings" and seeing their delight when they would pinch a few inches above the stereogram.
We also showed a few of those Magic Eye Puzzles, which I've never been able to see before. But after a lot (a lot) of practice, I finally got a few! You see, it was even a learning experience for me.
7. Special Eyes: Exploring Animals' Visual Systems
With such an amazing setting as the Memphis Zoo, how can one not talk about the differences between animal and human eyes?
8. Color Me Chameleon: A Color Vision Experience
Finally, the kids learned about color vision (and how some animals perceive color) and even got to make a really cool painting, too. Oh yeah, did I mention that the kids had little passports that could be stamped at each station? Those who went through every station had their card put into a raffle for prizes, one of which (according to rumor) was tickets to a Justin Bieber concert. What an incentive!
Oh, to be a kid again. By just walking around the zoo today and observing the interactions between our volunteers and the kids, I realized that everyone was having such a good time. After all, it's important to note that optometry - really, any health care profession - does not exist in a vacuum. Optometrists and other health professionals serve a community, and it is necessary to reach out to that community and spread the message of good health. I'm truly honored to be part of an organization that takes this message so seriously, but I'm also just as proud of the fact that we can spread this message and have fun, too. Hopefully this becomes an annual event!
Elena showing off her new specs!
My big sib, Brian, making bracelets and teaching kids about the dangers of UV exposure.
Fellow second year Jigna and that awesome giant eyeball. It floats in water and illustrates eye movements oh-so-wonderfully.
The object of this task was to navigate through the maze by only looking at its mirrored image.
Publications came up with these awesome signs. This event really was a team effort!