Thursday, June 19, 2008

"I want to be just like you when I grow up"

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.


8 comments:

Secret Lentil Clothing said...

It's so great that you did that. You never know what seeds you planted in their little brains!

Great snake pics.

Jeannie said...

How fantastic that you go to schools! I think it is wonderful. And from your post, it sounds as though the kids learned a lot.

Great pics of the snake, too.

maritza said...

Sounds like a neat experience! Very cool that you did that.
And those photos of the garter snake are phenomenal!

Always Amy said...

I love you more every time I read your blog! Seriously, you rock! :) I wanna be just like you when I grow up too! No shit! hahaha

membracid said...

The trick is to keep the bugs hidden until you need them--cuts down on the chaos.

If/when you're ready for grad school, you'll find that nearly all entomology departments have outreach programs like this.

Good for you for starting your own!

Weirdbuglady said...

Yeah all the creatures stayed in a big box, took them out one by one, but the kids were still all clamoring to get at me as I walked around the room.

At college our insect museum does tours, I might help out with some of those, I help care for their live insects :)

Juddie said...

Oh! What beautiful pictures of an fabulously photogenic snake!

Your classroom experience sounds like an adventure ....

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