Students study slithering snakes

Published 12:26 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

JB Rattles enthralls the children with a demonstration of how a snake devours a mouse.

Brushing aside their reading, writing and arithmetic for a moment, students at Creekside Elementary this week learned a few things that could conceivably one day save a life.

What to do if you meet a snake in the wild, and more importantly what not to do, were on the lesson plan of JB Rattles, who was at the school all week with his reptile show.

Rattles says he has been interested in reptiles since he was 6, and the wealth of knowledge he has accumulated on his favorite subject certainly seemed to impress Creekside students.

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At the school Friday, Rattles warned the children to leave snakes alone at all times, even dead ones.

“Dead snakes can still bite,” he said. “Leave them alone, that’s all you have to do.”

And if one is unfortunate enough to be bitten, he said it “burns like I stuck my hand in a fire; that’s the best way to describe it.”

Words of warning aside, students were also able to hold snakes and other reptiles.

Alyssa Suekoff described the experience of holding a blue-tongued lizard and giving it a kiss as “amazing,” adding, “I think they’re fascinating.”

Meanwhile, Hayley Councilman was smitten with a non-venomous snake Rattles draped across her shoulders.

“It wasn’t a bad feeling; I kind of liked the way it slithered around my neck,” Hayley said.

Librarian Kim Hobson Richardson said her main reason for organizing the visit was to stimulate students to do independent research.

“The main reason for this is for students to learn by reading,” she explained. “If they want to know more, all they have to do is pick out a library book about reptiles.”

The students also learned about reptiles themselves, she said, and connected the learning experience with the Standards of Learning.

Students reviewed a vocabulary list including the reptile-centric words habitat, predator, prey, camouflage, migration and molting.

One thing they might be reading up on is how snakes eat after Rattles showed them how a corn snake devours a mouse by dislocating its jaw.

“Snakes can swallow things three times the size of their head,” Rattles said. “ That’s like trying to swallow a watermelon whole.”

Rattles’ creatures included tortoise from Africa; boas, pythons, cobras and rattlesnakes; Madagascar hissing cockroaches; blue-tongued lizards; and emperor scorpions.