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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on December 15, 1999 at 19:01:31:
WYOMING TRIBUNE EAGLE (Cheyenne) 19 November 98 (98) Hands-on experience converts snake haters (Deidre Forster)
Cheyenne: Snakes. The legless, scaly, forked-tongued reptiles have had a bad rap since Eve took the advice of one and picked the apple.
Cheyenne's school district is trying to help brighten up the snakes' tarnished reputation by allowing students a chance to get up close and personal with them.
The Laramie County School District 1 Herpetarium, located at McCormick Junior High School, houses 13 snakes. It also has two iguanas, three geckos, two frogs and "a zillion rats to feed the snakes," said Lisa Snyder, herpetarium curator and seventh-grade science teacher. A herpetarium is a collection of amphibians and reptiles.
More than 1,000 LCSD1 students, primarily from elementary schools, visit the herpetarium on an annual basis, Snyder said. Snyder provides quick information sessions about the animals while her snake wranglers, students Robert Connaghan and Anthony Cordova, provide students with access to the animals. The trio agreed most students who come in are hesitant or afraid to touch the animals -- especially the snakes.
"They see their friends do it and by the end of the hour, they are trying it too," Snyder said.
A group of science students from Fairview Elementary School stopped by Wednesday morning.
"(The snakes) aren't so scary as they seem," said Lindsey Hall, while waiting in line to pet an iguana. "My brother had a snake before and I hated it. Now they're not bad. They just slither around on your hands," she said.
Hall and her classmates have been studying animals as part of the sixth-grade curriculum, said teacher Pat Lang. Lang brings students to see the snakes and reptiles every year. "This is a great opportunity for us to come and have some hands-on experience," she said.
Much about the snakes surprises the visiting students.
Kelly Herrington expected the snakes to feel hard not soft.
Her classmate Tyler Baker assumed the snakes' skin would feel alike but found the skin of an albino snake softer than the skin on the ball python.
LCSD1 has had the herpetarium since 1986 when then McCormick Junior High School teacher Gary Schafer received a grant to fund it.