Eating food from a street vendor was the worst decision we made in Madagascar.
Letting lemurs sit on our heads was probably the best.
Seeking only affection and adventure (…and perhaps bananas), these cat-sized critters with soft hands, wet noses and insatiable curiosity walked with us for hours through the forests of Madagascar. When we paused for breaks, they climbed onto our heads or shoulders…presumably to see our perspective on their world. These lemurs won our hearts and minds with their unrestrained curiosity and friendly, accepting demeanors. For them, learning about people seemed to be a fun adventure. It struck us that this was how learning should be, and that lemurs could be great role models for us… and kids everywhere.
After our lemur encounter, we returned to San Francisco and in 2010 created a small writing and publishing business called Ringtail Learning (named for the ring-tailed lemur) as a “weekends and evenings” project to share curiosity-driven living and learning.
Jen left her University Director position in September of 2011 to focus on Mister Lemur full time, and Hans followed in early 2012, leaving a position at a San Francisco hedge fund. By June of 2012, thanks to the word-of-mouth efforts of enthusiastic teachers, librarians, and parents, we had operated our first summer camp, and Jen had conducted assemblies at over 100 schools to over 50,000 students. She comes alive in her interactions with young people, making music, song, and fun part of her daily work schedule.
Our first book, Mister Lemur’s Train of Thought, won a gold medal in a national children’s poetry contest. Mister Lemur was soon being featured on television and in newspapers from California to Florida for helping students to learn… “without feeling like they were learning.”
Along the way, team has expanded to include many wonderful people in both the “home office” and the “field team” of teachers and college students that join us each summer. We successfully applied for 501(c)3 status, and have added additional locations, books, and music each year. We also recognize that we are fortunate to be able to raise our own two kids in this creative, musical, education-focused environment.
We care about making our business grow, but we also care about making our world a better place. Our goal is to create engaging, educational products and characters that children (and parents) will love. We also want to give back to lemurs, who were recently declared the world’s most endangered primate group, and we contribute a portion of book sales to lemur conservation through a partnership with the Duke Lemur Center. (Go visit if you find yourself in Durham!)
This experience has brought thousands of wonderful people into our lives and created many, many thousands of hours of happiness for young readers and writers. For that opportunity, we say THANK YOU! If you enjoy these stories, songs, assemblies and camps, we hope you will share your positive experience with other families and schools in your community so they too may experience the joy of “lemur learning.”