May 4, 2018

This Memorial Day weekend, the Indianapolis Zoo will unveil a brand-new exhibit called “Sharing One World: Long-Tailed Macaques.”

The exhibit features a troop of 29 macaques — seven males and 22 females. The long-tailed macaque is unique species of monkey that loves to spend time in the water cooling off and playing.

Kera and Walla, two of the female macaques, have a special connection to Indianapolis Public Schools, but specifically to students in a multilevel class at George Washington Carver School 87 — a Montessori-based school.

Macaque Students

The students entered a zoo-based contest to name these playful animals and two of the names they submitted were chosen. Classroom teacher Kristin Hancock first learned about the contest to name the macaques through an educator email sent from the Indianapolis Zoo.

“My class is a multiage Montessori classroom, and they just LOVE to do research,” said Hancock. “We had been working on animal adaptations and animal classification, so it just seemed like a great opportunity to pull it all together in a real-world way.”

According to the zoo’s Education Programs Manager Tolly Foster, the Indianapolis Zoo received more than 150 name suggestions from students across the state. So, the fact that two names were selected from one IPS classroom is impressive.

Each name had to have something to do with the animal or its habitat and be accompanied by an explanation of why it would be a good name.

  • Walla is an island off the coast of Australia, where some macaques live — although, they are predominantly in Southeast Asia.
  • Kera is the Indonesian word for monkey.

Like all animals at the Indianapolis Zoo, the macaques are ambassadors for their species and offer many unique educational opportunities, including a conservation message about the importance of humans coexisting with animals.

“I had a group of nine students who worked on this project,” said Hancock. “For about a week, they worked together and researched everything about macaques — from where they live, to what they eat, and how they survive. From there, they worked in pairs to come up with names. We had a lot of discussions about the pros and cons of the name choices.”

The class submitted a total of 10 names. After their two names were selected, zookeepers matched each macaque to a name based on each monkey’s unique personality. 

After the winning names were announced, the zoo sent Hancock’s class four zoo tickets. She drew the names of two student researchers to receive the tickets, and the school’s principal, Mark Nardo, announced the exciting news to the entire school.

“What a wonderful and memorable experience,” said Nardo. “This is a fantastic example of Montessori lifelong learning and how we try to connect learning to real life outside the classroom.”

Hancock’s class will also attend a workshop at the zoo called “Building a Habitat,” where they will learn about what it takes to build a perfect place for animals to live and thrive. Of course, the students are planning to visit “their” macaques during their visit.

IPS students and the general public can visit Kera and Walla starting Saturday, May 26, when the exhibit “Sharing One World: Long-Tailed Macaques” opens. To learn more about macaques, click here.