Caregiver Corner: ‘Gardening with Koko’ by Christa Nunes

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Koko enjoys gardening; she likes getting her own hands dirty, as well as watching other people do the work. The following is an account of Koko watching the pots and planters on her porch being replanted. In Koko’s responses, the pound symbol (#) after a word indicates that it is a vocalization by Koko; otherwise the word or phrase represents her response in American Sign Language. The kiss# vocalization is commonly used to get someon’s attention. Koko Journal Entry: June 10, 2005 by Christa Nunes I was visiting with Koko in her kitchen, when our gorilla chef, Jen Upson, and a volunteer, Nancy Birchett, came by Koko’s porch to do some gardening. Koko heard them before I did and moved to the porch: Koko: Drapes hurry. I go outside and open Koko’s drapes so she can see what is happening. Koko is very interested in the gardening. Jen (Gorilla Produce Supervisor) had told Koko the day before that she was going to plant in her planters, in addition to using compost, which she explained is like food for plants and is made out of the scraps from the kitchen. Koko: Do that. (Koko points to one of the pots on her porch.) Jen and Nancy Yerly (a volunteer) add compost, soil and then seeds to the empty pot. Jen holds up a packet of seeds, on which there is a picture of a chamomile flowers. Koko. Stink/flower. Koko notices that Jen and Nancy haven’t added compost to her parsley plant that is already on her porch. Koko: That. (Koko points to the compost). Koko: There. (Koko points to the parsley plant). Jen and Nancy add compost around the parsley. This seems to satisfy Koko. A short time later, Koko is still watching the gardening. Jen and Nancy transplant beans and plant chamomile, dill, and pea seeds.. Koko: Kiss#. Hat. (Koko gets Nancy’s attention; Nancy is wearing a straw hat.). Koko: Stink/flower there. (Koko points to a planter that holds a small flowering bean plant.) Koko: Do that. (Koko points to a pair of gloves sitting on the porch.) Nancy obliges and puts on the gloves then continues gardening. Koko watches for a little while longer. Koko. Drapes. I go open the drapes so she can look out. She spends some time examining her new plants.

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