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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on August 04, 2001 at 11:43:24:
DAILY INTER LAKE (Kalispell, Montana) 04 August 01 Turtle class captivates children (Candace Chase)
Timothy and Tallulah paddled about in two large stainless steel salad bowls at the back of the room.
Their striped green-and-yellow flippers and heads bobbed restlessly out of their shells as they peered up at young students pondering them. Two tiny relatives swam in a coffee can nearby.
Children from kindergarten to sixth grade warmed up to the cold-blooded reptiles this week at Kids' College at Flathead Valley Community College.
"Turtles: Come On Get Out of Your Shell" brought squirming turtles and youngsters together for Lorrie Rader's summer class on turtles and tortoises. A veteran of four Kids' College sessions, Rader teaches in Great Falls the rest of the year.
She challenged the students on Tuesday to name the number one enemy of endangered sea turtles. The youngsters guessed raccoons, grizzly bears, eagles and snakes before a little girl hit paydirt with "man."
"Man is ... you and me. Most of us humans don't mean to hurt the turtles," she reassured the class.
But man's inventions and tools, from boat propellers to fishing nets and lines, sometimes injure the ancient reptiles. She held up a photo of a man taking eggs from a sea turtle as she deposited them in the sand. Rader said poor people sell the eggs to take care of their families.
She told the class of an old fisherman who found a five-foot-long, 700-pound leatherback sea turtle completely ensnared in fishing line. Rader said the name comes from the turtle's natural shell composed of seven long, leathery strips.
Experts tried to save the giant reptile, but the line had cut off circulation to its flippers for too long. Rader said the loss multiplied when they discovered the leatherback held 150 eggs that would never hatch.
Even if the turtle laid the eggs, Rader said very few hatchlings would make it to back to sea because predators, such as birds, lay in wait for them.
"They have a pretty tough life," Rader said.
To get inside their subject and have some fun, students made turtle shells to wear. Rader encouraged them to grab one of a number of kid-friendly turtle books for inspiration. Or, they could travel back for another peek at Timothy and Tallulah.
Mary Conklin, an FVCC computer instructor and grandmother of a turtle student, brought the western painted turtles to visit the class. She said her son nurtured the gentle pets for nine years.
"They're great pets," she said. "They don't bark or bite."
The two represent a species commonly found in ponds in this area. Conklin said she traded snapping turtles for the friendly western painted variety after they menaced her husband with their powerful jaws.
According to Conklin, Timothy and Tallulah have distinct personalities. Timothy, a real people-turtle, enjoys floating on his back while humans drop food in his mouth. Tallulah provides the turtle counterpoint with her shy and retiring manner.
Rader agreed that turtles make great pets. She said they worked well for families, such as her own, with allergy concerns.
Her daughter and new granddaughter joined Rader's class last week as they learned some facts and had a lot of fun making origami turtles and their own shell. The youngsters then tried life in a shell, performing a turtle waltz and negotiating an obstacle course in their paper shells.
Rader pointed to a quote on a poster on her classroom door that summed up her philosophy.
"It would be a better world if every kid had a turtle," the poster read.