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Dragons and hedgehogs and snakes - oh my!

Staff writer

Though there were no lions or tigers or bears in attendance, there were some “oh my” moments when an educator with the Sedgwick County Zoo visited Head Start students from Marion and Hillsboro Thursday at Marion Elementary School.

Environmental educator Jan Brock showed a room full of fidgeting big-eyed students a bearded dragon, a hedgehog, and a Honduran milk snake, after reading “Edward the Emu,” a story about an emu who was sick of the zoo.

She used the animals in the book as a way to introduce animals she showed.

“Our goal is to help children explore the natural world in hopes that they will take an interest in it,” Brock said.

She also brought shards of an emu’s egg and some emu feathers, as well as a small square of sealskin, a rectangle of a lion’s pelt, and a 20-foot yellow anaconda’s skin to share with students.

“Emu’s can’t fly and when I show you their feathers you’ll understand why — I’m starting to rhyme like the book now,” she joked with students.

Brock informed her audience that emu feathers have two shafts where other bird feathers normally have one, which is one reason why they cannot fly.

The hedgehog and its “sharp hair” and shy disposition garnered giggles and whispers and cute comments, while the Honduran milk snake fascinated students with its crimson color black stripes, and flickering tongue as it slithered and coiled into a knot around Brock’s forearm.

The milk snake is common on farms in Honduras. Brock said a legend about its eating habits is the source of its name.

“The legend says that the snake drinks all the dairy cows’ milk so the farmer has no milk for the family,” she said. “But actually, the snake is attracted to mice that eat the cow feed farmers store in their barns where the cows are.”

Lesli Beery, lead teacher for Marion’s Head Start program, said Brock’s visit was a nice alternative to a field trip.

“We only get kids for three and a half hours a day,” Beery said. “It was a good way for children to see animals without all the travel time.”

Beery also invited Ashley Sheridan’s preschool class from Hillsboro Elementary School.

Sheridan said the animals sparked some interesting conversations among students.

“The big controversy was the snake,” Sheridan said. “Some really liked it. Some didn’t like it all and thought it was gross, and there were some who after touching it, found out it wasn’t as slimy as they originally thought it would be.”

Last modified Oct. 9, 2014

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