Applying Creativity & Behavior Change Frameworks in Primate Education Program Design Training Workshop

Changing behavior can result in the reduction of the most significant conservation threats faced not just by primates, but also by entire ecosystems. Educators and practitioners are uniquely positioned to catalyze behavior change because they build relationships, work with diverse stakeholders for long-term change, and are great communicators.

On August 24th, 57 educators, practitioners, and team members with PEN and creativity partner Conservation Fusion came together for our Applying Creativity & Behavior Change Frameworks in Primate Education Program Design Training Workshop at the 2016 joint meeting of the International Primatological Society and American Society of Primatologists.

During our training workshop, participants learned the Fogg Behavior Model and creativity fundamentals, experienced creative teaching techniques from four different organizations, and applied this knowledge to design three new creative products with peers to catalyze behavior change.

See Photos From Our Training

“Thank you. I came in knowing nothing. I will leave with some confidence.”
– PEN workshop participant


Our training workshop included Show & Tell, a teaching method for participants to share examples of evidence-based creative techniques to catalyze behavior change, including games and activities in primate conservation education. Our workshop participants experienced creative teaching techniques from four different organizations.

1.  Suzana Padua, Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, Brazil
Suzana’s organization uses puppets to engage mothers and their children with the target behavior of decreasing forest fires and promoting black lion tamarin conservation. She shared a plush black lion tamarin as her creative product for PEN's Show & Tell.

2.  Susan Cheyne, Borneo Nature Foundation, Indonesia
Susan shared a deforestation sarong game as her organization’s creative product for PEN's Show & Tell. She explained that the sarongs symbolize gibbon habitat and the students are gibbons. When deforestation occurs, the sarongs are folded, and then space and food become an issue for the gibbons. If a gibbon steps off the sarong, they are out of the game.

Susan also shared "The Little Gibbon Who Lost His Song" storybook, which Borneo Nature Foundation uses to educate communities about how gibbons are affected by forest fires where they work in Indonesia. You can download the storybook on PEN's Resource Library.

3.  Sonya Kahlenberg, Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center, Democratic Republic of Congo
Sonya shared a gorilla song that was written and recorded by her education team led by Sims Guy Mumbere at GRACE in North Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She played the song and welcomed the group to imitate gorilla behaviors, such as chest beating and vocalizing. GRACE’s goal is to get the gorilla song played on the regional and national radio and share it during their local visitor program. The song aims to increase pride in gorillas and have an effect on deterring destruction of habitat and curbing poaching.

4.  Susie Louis, Conservation Fusion, Madagascar
Susie introduced her organization's aye-aye game and handed out bugs to volunteers who played the role of students. She explained that aye-ayes eat bugs and have a special elongated fourth finger to pull them out of trees.

Susie shared that children in Madagascar like to kill bugs, so the game educates them not only about the aye-aye, but also about the importance of conserving the bugs to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Susie handed out brown crushed cookies to represent dirt, an important element of compost and home to bugs, to the participants. Workshop participants also received candy worms, which represented what Susie called, "compost superstars!" The participants tossed bugs into the aye-aye's mouth, reminding them that lemurs eat bugs.

After delivering this lesson in Madagascar, Susie and her team are observing that the children are no longer killing the bugs and the vegetable gardens are flourishing.

See Photos From Our Show & Tell

“I really enjoyed it! Stimulating, fun, and amazingly effective in the short period we had.”
– PEN workshop participant


Following Show & Tell, our colleagues were grouped into geographical teams and provided with the regional featured project’s details and supplies to apply what they learned during our training to design and build a creative product for three organizations.

Prior to the workshop, the PEN team interviewed the featured projects about their primate species, conservation threats, current and target human behaviors, and the creative products that they selected for group work.

Group participants made suggestions to improve the projects' creative product ideas and spent 30 minutes building it with their colleagues. Read the summaries of each regional group for Latin America, Asia, and Africa below to learn more.

1.  Diana Carolina Guzmán Caro, Asociación Primatológica Colombiana, Colombia

Conservation Threat: Small monkey species are threatened by the illegal primate trade because low-income urban migrants buy primates as pets in the local market in Colombia.

Target Behavior: The target behavior is for urban migrants to participate in a monkey-themed Christmas tree contest to celebrate their culture and not feel homesick and stop buying monkeys.
Creative Product: Craft
Diana explained that immigrants buy primates when they visit their family because it is nostalgic to have animals from their native land as pets. The sale of primates increases during the holidays (i.e. Easter and Christmas) and the price is not expensive.

Her group suggested promoting a contest among families and neighbors to create Christmas trees using monkey ornaments and other elements found in their homeland. The trees would help community members engage with educators and each other to learn about endemic primate species and their environmental value.

Supplies Used: The Latin America group used colored construction paper, bamboo sticks, colored felt, pom poms, felt, googly eyes, glue, tape, and scissors to build their monkey-themed Christmas tree.

2.  Jihosuo Biswas, Primate Research Centre NE India, India

Conservation Threat: Gibbons are threatened by abuse because uneducated children are using catapults to tease and hit the primates when they collect wood in the forest in Northeast India.

Target Behavior: The target behavior is for children outside of the school system to attend a community play and stop using catapults to throw stones at and abuse gibbons.

Creative Product: Play
Jihosuo’s group designed a community play. The play started with a boy getting bullied by other boys in a village. He runs away to the forest and meets gibbons. They start talking and the boy learns that gibbons understand how it feels to be bullied because boys abuse them too. They realize they are both teased, bullied, and injured by catapults.

The boy encounters an injured gibbon in the forest and recognizes he is a cherished animal of the forest. He feels sorry for the gibbon. The gibbon returns to his family to tell them he was hurt. The boy tells the family that the gibbon needs their help. The gibbon realizes that if he is hurt, this will happen to other gibbons too.

When the boy returns to his village, the other boys bully him again and he gets hurt by a catapult and runs home. During his afternoon nap, he has a dream about his ancestors being good to animals and the Hindu gods tell him why it is important to protect all of the forest resources. When he wakes up, he becomes emotional and goes back to the forest to look for the gibbon. He apologizes to the gibbon who is sad and scared. The two connect on their shared pain from bullying.

After the boy returned to his village, he tells the other boys about how gibbons in the forest told him that bullying, abusing, and throwing stones at them was really bad. He also shared his dream about how their ancestors protected gibbons. They were astonished and become friends.

Supplies Used: The Asia group built catapults with pencils wrapped with paper and pipecleaners for the elastic. The group used a black paper plate, yarn, pipecleaners, glue, hole punch, and scissors to make their gibbon mask.

3.  Caroline Asiimwe, Budongo Conservation Field Station, Uganda

Conservation Threat: Chimpanzees get accidentally caught in snares set by pitsawyers who use them to catch duiker for food during overnight stays in the rainforest in Uganda.

Target Behavior: The target behavior is for the children of pitsawyers to participate in a play, commit to not becoming pitsawyers, and to influence their fathers not to set snares.
Creative Product: Play
For the Africa group’s play, Caroline told the story of pitsawyers who cut trees to sell the wood illegally and build their saw tables. The pitsawyers set snares to catch duiker, however chimpanzees, who also use the same paths as the other animals in the forest, get caught in the snares. To set the scene, group participants held leaves and positioned their arms like tree branches to represent the chimpanzee’s forest habitat.  In the story, one chimpanzee got injured to demonstrate the harm and pain caused and another died. A tourist found the decaying chimp and is scared away, which is bad for tourism and the economy. Another participant played the role of a law enforcement officer who arrested the pitsawyer for illegal activity in the forest.

Supplies Used: The Africa group built snares and handcuffs with pipecleaners and chimapanzee and pitsawyer masks and leaves (fallen tree branches and leaves could be supplemented in the field) with craft sticks attached with tape to colored construction paper. The law enforcement officer wore an official badge made out of colored construction paper that was attached to his shirt with tape.

See Photos From Our Group Work & Reporting Out

“Congratulations on the excellent workshop. Great ideas, fantastic atmosphere, a real therapy.”
– PEN workshop participant


After participants presented their creative products to the audience, a community pizza lunch hosted by PEN and Conservation Fusion followed. The lunch provided our colleagues with an opportunity to see and learn from creative primate education materials on display at our Creativity Corner and chat informally with each other after the workshop.

As a special reward for our workshop participants’ hard work, PEN and Conservation Fusion gave away raffle prizes, including t-shirts, pocket guides, raffia lemurs, children’s books, and more during the lunch.

“Great job!! Loved how colorful and dynamic it was. It clearly took a lot of love and planning, and it’s so nice to see how you bring people together and spark ideas.”
– PEN workshop participant


Our 57 workshop participants are working across 20 primate range countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Although all participants rated the workshop to be useful, a large majority (80 percent) rated the workshop to be extremely or very useful. In over half of our participants’ pre-questionnaire responses, we found that knowledge, attitudes, and behavior were used incorrectly or interchangeably. Our workshop helped to clarify this and the highest increase in knowledge and skills resulted from our training on behavior change (95 percent rated this increase as a lot or quite a bit).

Before the workshop, 64 percent of participants rated themselves as moderately, slightly, or not creative at all. Our workshop helped reinforce PEN’s message that we can all be more creative by sharing our experiences and lessons learned and adapting ideas from our colleagues working in other countries.

Lastly and most importantly, 97.5 percent of participants said that they would apply what they learned during our workshop at their project locations in the field. These post-workshop results validate PEN’s mission, approach, and focus on peer learning in addressing the widespread needs of educators and practitioners.

In the following months, the featured projects will report back on the application of their creative products and methods of evaluation in the field. We plan to share the experience and impact of Diana, Jihosuo, and Caroline’s creative products (designed and built during our workshop’s group work) with PEN’s global community, so other educators and practitioners can learn and benefit from their experience.

The supplies generously donated by PEN’s partners Zoo Miami and Conservation Fusion that remained after the workshop were given to the Asociación Primatológica Colombiana, Primate Research Centre NE India, Barbary Macaque Awareness & Conservation, Fundación Entropika, Alejandra Duarte in Mexico, and Bishwanath Rijal in Nepal. We look forward to learning and sharing how they will use the supplies to inspire creativity and behavior change in their primate range countries!

See Photos of Projects Awarded with Supplies

“Thanks so much! I learned a lot, feeling inspired :)
– PEN workshop participant


Our team is humbled to have hosted such a great community of engaged and committed educators and practitioners. Together, we shared, learned, and experimented with creativity and behavior change frameworks in primate education program design.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our team, volunteers, partners Conservation Fusion, BJ Fogg at Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab, Zoo Miami, AAZK Omaha Chapter, Blank Park Zoo, and the Primate Action Fund for making this workshop possible. We are also grateful to our raffle sponsor Conservation International and to Corrin LaCombe with Primate Connections for her generous donation of calendars for our workshop volunteers.

Additionally, we acknowledge and appreciate the International Primatological Society and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for their leadership in organizing the conference and space for us to host our training workshop.

“Thank you for all your hard work! Wonderful job
and well thought out.”
– PEN workshop participant

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