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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Local students learn about reptiles

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scott Shupe, a naturalist with the Natural History Educational Company and Kentucky Reptile Zoo, shows students and teachers at Matthews Elementary a 10-foot python Wednesday.
(Photos by Jill Bock, Staff)
Presentation part of teaching children about life sciences

MATTHEWS - Scott Shupe knows how to get the undivided attention of youngsters and teachers alike. Wrap a10-foot python around your neck.

Shupe, a naturalist with the Natural History Educational Company and Kentucky Reptile Zoo, is visiting several schools in Southeast Missouri to get his message across about reptiles, the life sciences and education. In addition to the Burmese python, he uses an alligator snapping turtle, Tegu lizard, American alligator and snakes to relay the lessons.

Matthews fifth grade teacher Angie Hanlin lets a corn snake crawl on her on Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a way to bring something fun and exciting to the schools," said Shupe. "It has educational content and information that is useful."

He talks to the children about each of the animals, drawing oohs and aahs as he shows the alligator's 80 teeth or tells how the Kingsnake has earned the title of king.

Emphasizing the message of conservation, he told the youngsters that although some snakes may be dangerous, a majority are very useful. "They all play a role in nature that is very important. You don't have to be afraid. If you don't bother them, they won't bother you," he said.

Capping off the presentation, Shupe called on fifth grade teacher Angie Hanlin to hold a corn snake. Hanlin, who admitted to being afraid of snakes, nervously agreed.

The experience surprised her. "I could not believe how it felt. I thought it would be rough, scaly and cold but it was not what I expected - it was very smooth and soft," said Hanlin.

She said she now she would tell her students they should face their fears now as well.

"I have faced my fear and I made it through," she said. Then Shupe draped the snake around her neck.