Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Turtles, snakes, and alligators - oh my!

Evening, all!

We finally got a few more pictures taken today, so I figured I'd update the blog again quickly. We're getting run pretty hard by the kids here (it hasn't even picked up to full steam yet!) so we're both really tired, so this may be quicker than it really should be.

A few groups have come through already, so there has been some opportunity to practice teaching classes we're unfamiliar with (since we're newbies, that would be all of them) and practicing teaching methods. There is also a strange custom here called "lead staff," in which one staff member's sanity is sacrificed so all the others may thrive... I kid, of course. Each of us is assigned to be lead staff for groups, one staff member for each group, to make sure their stay here goes smoothly. We show them around, make sure they get to meals on time and together, put out fires, etc. Jeff got to practice lead staff for a group last week that were a bunch of angels - seriously. This week, we each got to be lead staff for more ... normal groups.

When you are lead staff, you teach classes only with that group. It is a bonding experience. So I spent the week with a group of 5th graders that was from a suburb of Atlanta, and was informed by several students that they had never been in the woods before. Quite the adventure for them, then, that we not only took them into the woods, we also had them wading in the lake and digging up muck from the bottom to find little creepy crawlies to study. They were freaked out for all of 30 seconds - then they were in the lake and loving it. And next, there was canoeing class.

Ah, canoeing class. Most of the kids don't know how to swim, and no matter how many times you tell them that the personal flotation vest will keep them up, and that they'd better not end up in the lake anyway, some of them were still freaked out. Including the teacher. Fortunately for me, Jeff had that class period off from teaching, and since it was my first time teaching canoeing, he had asked if he could help me out. Thank goodness. I had boats drifting all over the lake, two of them with a kid inside totally frozen from fear. He tracked them down and got the scared ones on land while I tried to teach a class - but no matter how much you scream on the lake, kids in a canoe are not necessarily going to listen. So after hollering for them to come over and "gunny up" (get side-by-side to make a raft-like thing for discussion), after about 15 minutes I tried to teach turns to those who were there. It was far more fun for them to watch Jeff take in the scared kids, or look straight down at the water, or talk about Miley Cyrus, or whatever, though. No one really got the turns. So we tried to do some races... hah! One kid figured out paddling pretty well, and had his boat going the way he wanted, but if another boat got in the way, he'd just yell, "Oh, no, we're going to hit them!" and paddle harder in the same direction. Stopping paddling never occurred to him, to speak nothing of paddling backwards. It was quite the class. But everyone got in a canoe, and everyone got back to shore and out of the canoe, and no one tipped, so I guess it was a success of a kind.

Another part of the weekly routine here is "lab," where you and a partner are assigned to keep track of a set of animals or an area of campus or whatever to take care of. Jeff is in the aquatics lab, so he keeps track of a building that we use for lake ecology classes, and feeds the fish and turtles there. I'm in the museum lab, so I keep up exhibits for the museum and take care of the animals on display there. One of my favorites is our baby musk turtle:

It was feeding day today, so I got my favorite grumpy-old-man look from our snapping turtle, who was waiting for his food:

I've also been working on making water molecule and ice crystal models for the museum. Even though chemistry is not my favorite subject, I've been having fun because I've gotten to use a drill press and fuss around with painting and constructing models. Yay!

My big challenge for the term is to learn to teach the herpetology class. It's not so much the science part that I'm worried about, it's more the handling part. We have several snakes and turtles, a couple alligators, and a couple salamanders that we teach with, and part of the class is to take them out of their cages, carry them to the classroom, and pass them around to kids (if the kids can handle it - but then, part of the job is also to make it so the kids can handle it). I'm not afraid of snakes in a phobia kind of way, I just have never been exposed to them, so I don't really know what I'm doing. And they're creepy. But it's a big goal of mine to teach that class - it's part of why I took this job.

Jeff got to teach a modified version of the class, just on snakes, a couple days ago. He's more comfortable with the snakes - here's him and Fezzic the king snake checking each other out:

I, on the other hand, just held my first snake today. Actually, I held five snakes today. One at a time! Me and Winston the grey rat snake get along fairly well:

I wanted to start with slower-moving snakes, who tend to be the bigger ones, like Winston. But I agreed to hold Hugh the corn snake because Jeff told me Hugh was a nice guy. Turns out, while Jeff was teaching his snakes class, we had a big storm. The big storm dropped a tree on a power line, which gave us a two hour blackout. Jeff was holding Hugh at the time of the blackout, and Hugh was cool with it. So Jeff is cool with Hugh, and so am I:

Hugh is the slowest moving of the corn snakes, though, so I still have some work to do with some of the others. Today, though, I took it slower and went back to the rat snakes - here's JJ the black rat snake:

JJ, as it turns out, is a wiggler. He likes to explore. All over. He kept going back and forth from Jeff to me to Jeff to me, too:

After all those pictures, he started wondering what the heck the camera was, so he came up to sniff it:

After my success holding snakes, we decided to check out a few of the other animals in the herp lab. Jeff wanted practice with the alligators - I'm still working my way up to these guys. You have to flip them over just after you pick them up to calm them down, or they'll fight you:

Then, because turtles are awesome, we decided to get some pictures of them, too. Here's a bigger snapper than the one that I feed in the museum:

... and an even bigger one - an albino, Apollo:

... hee hee! I love the looks on their faces!

Next was the softshell (I think) who is really, really quick in the water, so was tough to catch:

And the yellow bellied pond slider, who's not as quick and really not very bright, so somewhat easier to catch - but he's good at getting into his shell:

This guy is a musk turtle, so the little dude I feed in the museum will someday look like this. He's cuter now, but I guess you can't stop them from growing...

And lastly, our gopher tortoise, Digger. He's heavy.

Hope you all enjoy our pictures! I probably won't be posting pictures of us with kids, since that might not be kosher, but we kind of consider our animals our kids, so good enough.

Nighty night!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh!! Talk about HANDS ON education. Have fun with these guys. Looks like a ball!