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Not a snake infestation in the library -- just an educational visit for the kids

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - In a special Woodstock Branch Library appearance, OMSIs Meng Vue holds a five-foot- long corn snake - a favorite pet snake known for its docile nature, reluctance to bite, and ability to catch mice and rats. On a recent warm summer afternoon, twenty-four children and seven adults sat on the floor of ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - In a special Woodstock Branch Library appearance, OMSIs Meng Vue holds a five-foot- long corn snake - a favorite pet snake known for its docile nature, reluctance to bite, and ability to catch mice and rats. the Woodstock Library community room – there to listen to Meng Vue, Outreach Educator from OMSI – the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, near the Ross Island Bridge – who was talking about reptiles. But what the children, who ranged in age from three to eleven, most wanted was to pet them!

Vue began by getting the attention of the children with a five-foot python named "Monty" that he held for the children to see. He explained that Monty was too "touchy" to be touched. It was not clear if the pun was appreciated. Vue then introduced a game designed to teach the difference between amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles: Each child was given a card with a different animal on it, and told to match it with those five animal categories on a Velcro board.

That exercise led to a focus on reptiles. "What do you call the science of reptiles?" Vue asked. One child answered, "reptilology", and was told that the "ology" part was correct; then a second child correctly stated "herpetology".

Vue explained that reptiles are cold-blooded, lay eggs, and are covered with scales that are smooth, to some degree – but not slimy. Each child was given a cloth bag with a rubber reptile, a piece of string, measuring tape, and a weight measuring scale. Everyone measured his or her rubber reptile, took its weight, and spent some time feeling it, or flopping it around if it was a snake.

Then came the anticipated time came to see the real reptiles. Vue uncovered their cages and took them out, one by one, returning each one to its box before taking out another.

The children were told that "Mrs. T", the box turtle, folds up her hands and sticks them inside her body when scared. "Box turtles live a very long time – so sometimes one hundred years – so if you get a turtle, it's quite a commitment," cautioned Vue.

The OMSI instructor went on to explain that "Violet" the gecko doesn't climb up walls, as do some geckos. "But, she does have a hundred teeth that are replaced every three or four months! At OMSI we feed her crickets," he said.

The children enjoyed petting the various reptiles, especially the last one, which was a corn snake. "They live in the southeastern [and central] part of North America, and are very popular as pet snakes. They are very easygoing."

Even though corn snakes resemble the venomous copperhead, they are harmless and even beneficial to people. They are constrictors, which use their five-foot length to hold onto prey – most often mice and rats – and suffocate them before consuming them. These are called corn snakes because they are frequently found in farm corn storage bins, where pesky mice and rats can eat the harvested corn. The children spent the last fifteen minutes of the special hour at the Woodstock Branch Library petting the corn snake before leaving – to make room for the next group of children and adults. Some local library events for all ages are included in the monthly Events and Activities section of THE BEE. For even more, go online – www.multcolib.org/events – and use the search program there.

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