Don't kids say the cutest thi..... what? I'm grown up? When did that happen?
Really though, I did a presentation at an elementary school classroom today. I did this a few times last year and it was a blast. Wasn't planning on it this year, but a teacher requested I return. I bring some of my pets and backyard animals I've caught to give a talk and let the kids ask questions. I like sticking to local animals (with a few exotic surprises) to teach kids about what they might be able to find in the wild, what's safe to touch and why, etc.
It's a really rewarding, but EXHAUSTING experience. This time I brought: House centipede, fishing spider with egg sack, local millipedes, giant african millipede, toads, salamanders, baby turtle, garter snake (caught this morning!), milk snake, and corn snake. Some are family pets, some are with me just for temporary study. I have a license from the state to temporarily capture, study, photograph and then release small animals like reptiles and amphibians.
It's so difficult to maintain order in a packed classroom (other classes joined us) with a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders extremely excited to see the animals and ask questions and share their own stories. I tried my best to relay information in a way they could understand, without being condescending. If there's one thing I hate, it's when adults talk down to kids, almost to the point of baby talk, when they're trying to teach them something. And I got some tough questions.
One kid asked how to tell male and female reptiles apart. I said it was tricky, depended on the species, usually can't tell just by looking. Later he asked again about snakes - now, for snakes, you have to either force the penes (yup, males each have two) out of the body to check, or stick them with a metal probe to check out the, uh, naughty bits. So I told the kid if you have a pet snake and want to know the sex, ask a pet store worker if they know how, or find a snake specialist :P Lots of "how long do they live", "how many eggs to they lay", "is it poisonous" questions, things like that.
And lots of "my mom/friend/brother/aunt/grandpa found a snake/salamander/turtle/toad just LIKE that and teased me with it/stepped on it/killed it" You know. Everyone wanted to share their stories, and kids that age take a long time to get out simple sentences under pressure.
Overall it was wonderful (and that comment in the title really threw me for a loop), but so tiring, and I'm sure the animals are glad to be back home or in the wild. The kids could only touch the giant millipede and the corn snake, neither of which minded at all. Monty the corn snake is a cuddly teddy bear of a snake.
And now for some photos I took of the garter snake before I released him. Little guy was *not* pleased with me and it took me a while to get these shots.