I can’t believe that I am typing this: “My name is Sunny and I handle reptiles and alligators during field trip sessions at a Wildlife Refuge.” Yes, lured to this refuge by the promise of Monarch butterflies and flowering milkweed gardening, instead I now find myself sharing the thrill of petting reptiles with 4th graders on their school field trips.
As a bus monitor, Storm maintains order and shares the sighting of birds and the ever popular sun bathing alligators with kids from the safety of a school bus as they are chauffeured through the refuge. Some days he teaches bird migration by playing a game where he stands among the energetic kids and lets them migrate from simulated Canada to Texas and back while he points out to them the obstacles (hunting, development) to successful snow geese migration. He then suggests conservation methods to balance man’s needs with wildlife protection. I know what you are thinking – “Stormy, a conservationist, really?” We’re hoping we can count his work here as an environmental offset to trading in the gas sipping Prius for a thirsty Rubicon.
As much as I love having a king snake coiling constrictively around my arm, my favorite part of this experience is the joy of discovery that I see in the kid’s eyes as the Master Naturalist teaches them how to recognize snakes or explains to them the many adaptations alligators use to survive. Although I am not yet accustomed to the shrieks and giggles that fill the pavilion when I bring out the baby alligator (and that is just the sounds I make), I hope I never become immune to how wonderfully children see the world.
For example, while I was showing the snakes today, one young lady refused to even look at the snake. Her classmate on my left fixed her with a stern glare and said, “If you touch the snake now you will open the door to more adventure in your life, if you don’t you will regret it for the rest of your life.” Amen and here’s to adventure and the wisdom of 4th graders!