The Creepy Crawly Zoo is a brilliantly designed and powerful educational super show. It has excited, inspired and educated over a million students over the last two decades and it goes on. The Creepy Crawly Zoo is an exercise in respect for life and appears in the guise of a traveling live invertebrate exhibit. It is the mission of the zoo to take fear and malice for what is misunderstood and turn it into curiosity and respect. It is the programs intention that this will carry to other parts of student’s lives. This mission is accomplished by the show’s creator; performing educator, outreach specialist and award-winning film producer, Tony Gustin.
Tony (a.k.a. The Bug Whisperer™) is a dynamic theatrical educator and is in complete control from the get-go. His decades of experience working with students is immediately apparent. He leads his audience like the pied piper into jokes, stories, and horrifying pranks. Tony’s masterfully channeled playful enthusiasm and passion is infectious and the talk just escalates to a palatable excitement in the students. Tony fills the imagination of his audience with humorous accounts of the lives of his animals and his own follies as an entomologist and traveling educator. The show never loses momentum even during serious instruction. When he is finished Tony then turns the reins over to the students who become wide-eyed screaming maniacs as they rush up to handle the animals themselves.
One may think at this point in the show that the animals are in danger (or the students, I guess it depends on your perspective). However, this is not so. As part of the instruction, students become aware that they are responsible for the animal’s safety. He explains how to do so and that everyone should be conscious that his animals did not volunteer for this and keeping them safe is the least we can do out of respect. Tony claims that he has not lost an animal in the show for many years.
“I take animals that students may have simply stepped on without regard for fear and misunderstanding (Indeed many have for they tell me so… sometimes just the period prior out on the playground) - and now teach them how to keep it safe. I create an opportunity to hold a bizarre and alien creature, look into its eyes, and return it safely to its terrarium all on their own. I mean you really have to be some piece of work to step on something whose eyes you’ve looked into after that. It is my hope that this lesson carries over into all aspects of life afterward. We don’t have to hate and destroy what we simply do not understand.”
Tony Gustin (The Bug Whisperer)
“All people are motivated by two things: A quest for pleasure and the need to avoid pain…” Anthony Robbins.
Tony (the Bug Whisperer – not Robbins) does not just believe that learning is supposed to be fun in theory – it is fun! The Creepy Crawly Zoo is a progressive program that introduces students to Entomology by letting them be entomologists for a time. It isn’t theory it's practice. Its fun, it's exciting and even a little scary. It's an opportunity to face fear with understanding and conquer it. By creating a positive experience around the subject matter students gain an appreciation for not just entomology but learning. It is not the goal of the Creepy Crawly Zoo to turn everyone into entomologists but to simply open a door of opportunity to a very accessible science that students may not have realized was available to them.
Insects and other invertebrates are the perfect tools for this. Why? Because no student has to go far to find insects on their own. This life form is everywhere and they affect everything. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the gardens we grow, the houses we live in, the fish we catch, the medicines we discover, the birds we watch and even our other pets like dogs and cats are all affected by insects. Even we are affected by insects. This is not to imply that all these effects are negative either. We would not be alive today if it was not for insects. To be introduced to insects is to get a glimpse of the great biodiversity this planet really holds and how all living things affect other living things. This doesn’t start in the rainforest it starts right where we are where ever that maybe. Some insect is doing something to affect that space close by. It is awesome to understand how something so small can do so much on a global scale!
The point is it is an inspirational program. A famous musician was quoted as saying that the kind of music he liked was the kind that made you want to pick up a guitar yourself. This is the kind of education program the Creepy Crawly Zoo is. It inspires you to want to know more, to do it yourself. In wanting to know more about insects and understanding the complexity they hold in our daily lives students may discover other interests that will stem from that one pursuit.
“In presenting the program the way I do I am not simply trying to teach about insects, I am trying to pass on passion for whatever they grow up to be. I love what I do and I hope that is evident and I hope that whatever they grow up to be they love it too with the same passion. Life is too short to be unhappy. If you love to do something try to make a living at it. Chances are you will do well just because of that love. This isn’t wishful thinking it is a documented statistic.”
In promoting the excitement that the Creepy Crawly Zoo creates it is not to diminish its practical side. The Creepy Crawly Zoo is an education program. Some of its lessons are hidden in the vignette of a good time the rest is straight forward science - a science that is part of every school curriculum. Teachers are quoted again and again saying that their students were either extremely excited to learn about insects afterward or that it bought the lessons they had already gone through to life. Let’s face it, teachers are over worked, under paid and a program that can make the job of educating the future easier and appreciated is a good thing.
“The Creepy Crawly Zoo is only the beginning and leaves students always wanting more. This is not a short coming or an accident. This is what the program is designed to do. I learned early on through painful experience that I would never be able to say all the things I wanted to in the 45-50 minutes I have during the program. To even try defeats the purpose of the program. I realized that it is simply my job to inspire, to create an appreciation. In school, they will either take a greater interest when the subject is taught or check out books from the library.
Outside of school they will go home and talk to their parents about it. In fact most of the parents I talk to say they won’t shut up about it! I love that. I had one parent scold me when she found out who I was. We had known each other from mutual acquaintances but she never knew I was the infamous “Bug Whisperer”. Apparently, I had visited her son’s school a few years earlier. She said from that day on she has not been able to take a trip anywhere without making sure the nets and jars were packed for the trip. It had been her son’s obsession since the day I came to his school 2 years ago. That made my day.”
So, parents, that’s what you have to look forward to. Hope you’re not squeamish. Entomology is as accessible as the backyard. Insects make great low maintenance pets. We learn from pets. They do things we don’t understand and we ask why? In life, we are only as great as the questions we ask. Insects are so varied in habits and just utterly alien that we are always asking “why?” and “how?” You never know when the answer to a question will change the course of humanity. You never know if your child’s curiosity will lead them to be the next Alexander Flemming.(You may want to start with (WHO WANTS TO BE AN ENTOMOLOGIST?)
Entomology is relatively new as a scientific discipline and humans have identified over a million different species with many many more to go. Of those million species, we know very little about most of them. In entomology, there are more than a million questions that have not been asked or answered. For those of you who are not seeing the big picture that equals job security.
Nowadays no one has money to waste and time is also valuable. Have you ever hired an assembly program that disappointed your students or parents or patrons? If you are like most event coordinators you most certainly have. You may be reluctant to try another program without recommendations. In over two decades of service, the Creepy Crawly Zoo has NEVER had a disappointed audience. Students love it, learning was exciting. Teachers love it, their jobs are made easier. Parents are thrilled that their children have a new interest. If you booked the show you look great! Perhaps a promotion is now in the works?
Well, maybe the Creepy Crawly Zoo can’t promise a promotion but what it can promise is that it amazes the patrons of any venue. It makes an impression for its entertainment value as well as its educational value. The Creepy Crawly Zoo not only does large school assemblies but can be tailored for small shows also. The type of venue the Creepy Crawly Zoo is good for is anywhere there are families: Children’s theatres, museums, corporate parties, conventions, resorts, fairs, discovery centers, schools, fund raisers, libraries, day cares, etc. The Creepy Crawly Zoo has done it all with spectacular results.