Schenectady County

Kids find holding a snake is ‘cool’ at field days

It’s not every day that kids can touch a snake during school hours.

It’s not every day that kids can touch a snake during school hours.

Local fourth- and fifth-grade students are getting that chance this week as part of the 4-H Environmental Education Field Days held in Central Park. More than 400 students from Schenectady and Niskayuna schools are participating in the program, which is sponsored by the Cornell University Cooperative Extension. They have been learning about reptiles and amphibians, plants and the importance of recycling.

Dee Strnisa of the Department of the Environmental Conservation showed off amphibians and reptiles, including a black rat snake and a bald python, on Thursday.

“Snakes are not slimy. They’re scaly,” she said, correcting a common misunderstanding.

She told the children that she feeds dead rats to the snakes. She let students hold the well-fed reptiles.

“I think they’re cool,” said Matthew Michelfelder, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Paige Elementary School.

Andre Eriola, 9, also a fourth-grader at Paige, said he is learning a lot about animals and the importance of protecting the environment.

He said he is concerned about the fate of the polar bears.

“Because the ice is melting, they’re on the way to becoming an extinct animal,” he said.

Selena Delossantos, 10, a fourth-grader from Paige, said she learned that some snakes can grow up to 6 feet in length and a turtle can put his entire head inside of its shell.

Laura Milak, senior resource educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, showed students the correct way to plant a flowering plant. It cannot be too deep or the plant will not get any sunlight. It cannot be too shallow or the roots will not take hold.

Central Park nature staffers have a lot of experience in horticulture.

“We grow over 100,000 plants here a year,” she said.

Students also got to plant and take home their own marigolds.

Patrick Clear from Environmental Clearing House spoke about how plants defend themselves against disease.

Jeff Edwards, recycling coordinator for Schenectady County, was playing a quiz game with students about recycling.

“What does buying recycled mean?” he asked.

The correct response: buying products made out of recycled materials.

Edwards said he tries to let the children know about how recycling saves energy, reduces water use, conserves natural resources, reduces pollution and helps combat global warming.

Anita Paley, extension community coordinator for the field days, said the program has been going on for at least a decade and has been held at Central Park for the past several years. It is always very popular with students.

“They just don’t get a chance to get out anymore. Their days are so structured,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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