Linton Hall students squirmed at Reptiles Alive
the BULL RUN OBSERVER March 6, 2009
by GRETCHEN L.H. O’BRIEN
The visitors to Linton Hall School in Bristow were rather cold to the students. They didn’t shake hands or even make eye contact. Of course, they were reptiles.
The students – kindergartners to eighth-graders didn’t care that the creatures weren’t into shaking their hands. In fact, some of the students looked relieved to be sitting more than a few feet from the reptilian visitors.
When the energetic young woman from the zoo on wheels started talking to the students, she kept their attention well-no small feat, when students range from ages 5 to 13. However, she told them she brought “some of the best” reptiles for the youngsters to see.
Vader the [Bull]snake started out the show to many ooohs and aaaahhhs from the crowd. Vader, the presenter told the children, was similar to them in at least two ways: snakes and people both are vertebrates with backbones and snakes’ skin is made of a similar protein; keratin. Human hair and fingernails have a great deal of keratin in them, she noted.
The students sat raptly for the full 45 – minute program as the presenter brought out reptile after reptile. However, she did throw in one amphibian: Jeremiah, who was a bullfrog and was a very good friend of the presenter’s. The frog, she said, did have wet and slimy skin, which is much different from the smooth skin of snakes and many other reptiles.
It was the bearded dragon that breathed fiery life into the students. They got even more excited about seeing and discussing reptiles and human similarities.
But when Janice the Leopard Tortoise looked as if she were going to walk off the table, the younger audience members erupted with excited comments. There were concerned for her safety.
Safety was obviously important to the presenter: she made sure the students kept their distance from the reptiles. The students definitely complied: they sat at attention as the creatures that came out of the plastic crates got bigger and bigger.
The eyes and responses of the older students got bigger in tandem with the animals. Dean Martin, the alligator, didn’t dance, but he definitely entertained the crowd.
It was Sunshine the albino Burmese Python that brought down the house and acted as the Reptiles Alive grand finale for this show. The 12-foot snake roped across the table at the front of the school’s gym. The middle-schoolers were definitely wowed by the snake, who simply wanted to slither back into her crate.
Christina Ashworth, 13, was one of those who thought Sunshine was the brightest spot in the show. Christina’s favorite animal is the snake, so she adored seeing the huge snake at her school.
Her brothers, Thomas, 7, and Bobby, 10, also rated Sunshine as the star attraction at the show. Thomas like the crocodile too. Bobby said he’s not too afraid of snakes.
The presenter repeatedly noted that many people are afraid of sakes but reminded the audience members that snakes are very afraid of people.
Jerry Barrett, director of development, was impressed with how well the Reptiles Alive presenter wove facts and teachable moments into her presentation to the students. He was thrilled the show combined fun with “a good educational value.” He enjoyed it as well and was also impressed by Sunshine the albino Burmese Python.
The python and other creatures held all the children’s attention, which was what Libby Robinson, who as head of the school’s parent guild helped plan the presentation, had hoped. Robinson thought the show was terrific.
Elizabeth Poole, Linton Hall principal, agreed the show was terrific. She was glad to see all her students’ enthralled by the show that ended with an appropriate, if corny, “Ssssssssssssseee you later alligator.”