Twenty-four Macon County eleventh grade students are part of a mentoring program with Auburn University students and graduate assistant Raven Conwell. The project is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the work these students do together revolves around workplace and college readiness.
On April 17, 2012, we were pleased to be joined by Kay Stone of the Auburn University Environmental Institute, along with her student assistant Heather Hughes. Six of their friends joined them for a National Environmental Education Week program on reptiles and amphibians: Elvis the Kingsnake; Cornbread the Cornsnake; two turtles; and two salamanders.
For over a decade, Kay has delivered a variety of programs to audiences of all ages, all of which educate citizens on environmental issues and promote sustainability. Prior to the session, we queried students on their knowledge of ecological indicators; human activities that harm the environment; the difference between an amphibian and a reptile; and a little snake knowledge.
The turtles didn’t elicit any squeals from students, of course, but the salamanders made everyone squirm a bit in their seats. The snakes had quite an audience. Kay doesn’t sensationalize the experience with snakes, and she certainly doesn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, so she excused a few students to the fellowship hall to peak through the door until they felt comfortable that they snakes would not attack the twenty people in the sanctuary.
Some students (high school and college) kept a safe distance for the entire session. Elvis is more like a puppy than a snake, but Cornbread has a knack for getting inside a handler’s shirt. Some students overcame their fear of the legless creatures, and we believe all learned something about the role of snakes in the environment. Kay’s stories and examples were unforgettable, and students will never forget the anatomy lesson, including the fact that a snake has a forked penis.