Becky Keller first met Dr. Gary Shapiro over 25 years ago. She had a passion for orangutans, and she found Gary to have the information to feed that passion. Becky decided she HAD to visit the orangutans in their home so off to Borneo she went – the first time. Returning from Borneo full of information and an increased passion, she shared her adventure with many of her friends and family. Then she decided to go again. This time she decided to take her three daughters. At the time they were ages 4, 11 and 15 years old. They were excited and ended up traveling there two more times.
Whether learning something new or teaching something she is familiar with – Becky likes to “experience” the activity or the moment. She likes to “do it” as well as talk about it. With that in mind, when Becky started to plan her second trip to Borneo, she decided it was important for her and her daughters to experience that adventure firsthand as well. She wanted to go “up”.
Becky has always been fascinated with trees – climbing them, building treehouses in them, or just playing among them. She wanted to climb the trees in Borneo to see what the night nests of orangutans looked like up close and personal. The abandoned nests – not the occupied nests of course.
So, she and her daughters learned how to climb trees using ropes, carabiners, and ascenders. They practiced at home on the biggest, tallest trees they could find. They had “tree climbing” gatherings with friends who either wanted to try it or just watch. They learned “the ropes” so to speak. 😊
On her 3rd trip to Borneo, she and her daughters took “to the trees!” Although her daughters decided most of the old night nests were higher than they wanted to venture, Becky climbed up to learn more about why orangutans may choose a particular tree or branch on which to build their bed for the evening. Smelling the aromatic leaves surrounding the abandoned nests, she wondered if the orangutans felt that sense of calm that she felt while also discovering the remnants of the food eaten by the orangutans previously occupying the nests.
Determined to share information and the plight of orangutans and their existence in the rainforest, when Becky and her daughters returned home, they shared their discoveries with friends and classmates. Becky agreed to talk with her daughter’s school classes and developed hands-on activities in which they could also experience as much as possible of what her daughters had experienced in Borneo. Becky arranged a “Night nest building competition” for classes in elementary school, did outreach at earth day events, and turned a Kindergarten classroom into a rainforest, complete with a replica of a “feeding platform” used for supplemental feeding of orangutans in the forest. That classroom activity resulted in the principal scheduling her to talk to the rest of the classes in the entire elementary school. A week later she was divinely exhausted with almost 500 children having had the opportunity to learn about orangutans and see artifacts from the island of Borneo. What fun!
Becky is currently working on finishing the new online education app for grades K-12. She brings her unique experience and background to her current venture along with a dedicated committee of volunteers eager to provide another opportunity for even more young people to learn about the orangutan and their native habitat. As a certified life coach with an academic background in education and counseling, she also contributes articles to the OURF website to inspire and connect people in their daily local life with the greater global world in which the orangutans live.