Yay, Snakes!

Since I changed positions at my elementary school and became a librarian, I found that I am able to reach many more students about caring for wildlife.  Anytime anyone on campus sees wildlife, they come to me (or Miss Christina, our secretary).  In the spring of 2017, we rescued two Eared Grebes that became stranded on the ground.  Both were released.  We also had a bunny that managed to ‘self-release’ in our school office after it was taken from a student.  The bunny was eventually caught and released outside as well.  And since school started in August 2017, it’s been a rattlesnake and a bat to be rescued. (I did the bat while our custodian took care of the rattlesnake).

Besides teaching library skills to the students at Sunrise Elementary, I also teach a PAACE (Program for Advanced Academic and Creative Education) class with students from first- and second-grade.  Each year, I give my students the opportunity to sponsor an education ambassador through the Wildlife Center’s Caring for Critters program. In choosing their ambassador this year, they really threw me a curve and didn’t go with any of the birds.  They didn’t even go with a mammal.  Nope, they went with a snake -- Miss Greenbean.  I admit that snakes do not rank as one of my favorite animals. While I don’t fear them, I do understand that they are important to the environment.  So, now I am spending an academic year teaching my students, “Yay, snakes!”

The students that make up my PAACE class this year are excited to be learning about the environment and wildlife.  So much so that after making ornaments to donate for the Center’s fundraising Gala, the students wanted to do something else to make sure that Greenbean has lots of crickets to eat.  I talked with a friend who is a retired art teacher, and she came up with two projects for them: more ornaments! First, we crafted owl ornaments from toilet paper tubes.  Then, we made paper chain snake garlands -- done in colors to match the species of Wildlife Center snake ambassadors.  I also had leftover ornaments from previous activities, so we completed those as well and sent them to WCV.


Imagine my surprise when I receive an email from Wildlife Center Vice President Randy, asking if it was permissible to put the ornaments on eBay for people to bid on.  I was shocked by this and I will admit I had reservations, but as I told Randy, they were their ornaments to do with as they pleased.  At first, I was concerned about the bidding when there didn’t seem to be any activity.  I didn’t want to tell my students that all their hard work and effort raised only $15 or so (especially after their Gala ornaments went for $60).  I should know after six years of being a part of “Critter Nation” [the dedicated online Center supporters], to never doubt the love, enthusiasm, and support of this august group.  I was delighted to show my students that after 10 days of bidding, their ornaments raised $90.50 for Greenbean -- so she will have plenty of crickets! 

These students have also become activists for snakes.  We recently learned that a species of snake thought to be extinct has reappeared in a local wildlife refuge.  They wanted to write to the “powers that be” to provide protection for the Northern Mexican Gartersnake.  This is continuing with more activism as the county where the snake lives is considering putting an ATV trail through the middle of their habitat.  I am planning on a field trip for the students to visit the wildlife refuge.

So instead of hesitantly saying “Yay, snakes?”, I can proudly proclaim, “YAY SNAKES!”, thanks to my students.

--Lynda Matheson