Archive for August, 2009
A look into a typical day of one of Fernbank’s Diamondback Terrapins
9:00am: Blink couple times as the lights come on. Emerge from the water to bask and create my morning vitamin D.
9:30am: Seek shelter under a water-logged branch as animal care staff open the door and turn on the room lights.
10:00am: Sneak a peek at whatever the animal care staff are doing
10:30am: Swim a bit, bask a bit, beg for food every time a person walks by
11:00am: Enjoy the airborne transfer from my tank to my feeding bowl. Eat as much as I can (smelt and other seafoods are my favorites)! Wait for transfer back to my tank.
12:00pm: Enjoy the airborne transfer back to my tank. Seek warmth to bask and digest! Swim a bit, bask a bit, check out the filter and try to catch the water it’s throwing. Push rocks around and move as many things in my tank as possible!
3:00pm: Entertain museum guests at an animal encounter with my excellent swimming motion and interesting facts! Did you know I’m the only kind of turtle native to brackish water in North America!?! There are sea turtles and freshwater turtles, but only my kind (and our subspecies) can transition easily from freshwater to saltwater and vice versa! Check out our daily activities during your next visit and I may see you at the animal encounter!
4:00pm: Return to my tank for the afternoon. Entertain myself with swimming, hiding, basking, pushing things and hoping maybe there’s food hidden in the gravel! Perhaps an afternoon snack or another water toy is waiting for me!
6:00pm: Room lights go out. Good bye animal care staff!
7:00pm: All lights out! Good night! I’ll be in the water if you need me!
Working in informal education has its perks—I get to bring live animals to the classroom, I get to work outside in the woods, and the constant change of activities never leaves me bored. However, there is a tiny down side. Unlike formal education, I rarely see the same people over and over again, and I don’t get to bond with the students. It’s hard to make a real connection in 50 minutes, you know? Summer camp is a small exception to that.
For a week we get to keep the same kids. We are able to learn their personalities (the good and the… well… mostly good,) discover their knowledge and, hopefully, passion of science, and contribute to their love and understanding of it. It’s not just a camp. It’s a chance to be five different scientists in one week!
It starts in the morning with the drop-off. Sometimes the kids come prancing in eager to begin the week, and sometimes there are teary goodbyes—not always with the tears belonging to the child. However, cheeks dry and smiles begin to creep on their faces when we head up to the camp room. There’s a frantic rush to the cubbies as each child searches for his or her name. There’s a t-shirt inside! And a hat! And a… pencil! (Somehow they are equally just as thrilled by each item.) This is just the beginning.
Over the process of a week, the campers participate in a wide array of games, hands-on activities, and crafts—each one secretly intended to teach the children as much as to entertain them. One day they are Zoologists, learning all about unusual or endangered animals. Yes, the snake is fun to touch, but did you also know that it has a backbone? Okay, you knew that one, but do you know what the longest native snake in Georgia is? (If you’re reading this, and you don’t know, you’ll just have to look that one up!) Hydrologists, Archaeologists, Paleontologists, Botanists—these children go through career changes like they’re college freshmen.
Each activity, each new game that we play or place that we explore, brings out a new twinkle in their eyes that wasn’t there before. There are more questions. More gasps of amazement. More squeals of discovery. It’s fun to watch their progression, even in that short amount of time. By the end of the camp week, the children feel like “professionals” of science; one little girl even told me that she was going to look for a job as a Botanist the next week.
Rather than your typical celebration, this camp concludes with a graduation in honor of the knowledge the children have gained. Cubbies are cleaned, crafts from the week are packed to be taken home, and numbers are exchanged by the parents of new best friends. I receive thank yous and hugs as the children leave—signs of the connection that I’d been hoping for—and things begin to slow down. Camp is over for the summer now, but that just gives me plenty of time to look forward to next year.
Becky Facer, Environmental Education Specialist
Did you know? Fernbank Museum has a collection of nearly 40 live animals, including snakes, turtles, lizards, and insects.
We’d like to introduce you to “Prince Charming,” one of our leopard geckos. These small lizards are native to the arid ecosystems of the Middle East.
Charming, as we call him, joined our collection in 2008. He joined our two adult female leopard geckos and was apparently a big hit. In fact, both females began laying eggs about 3 months later. Of the eggs, 2 hatched successfully, adding to our collection. Now, he has a deluxe enclosure all to himself with several places to hide, bask, play or hunt his favorite food, crickets. Though a few of our other lizards feel threatened by Prince Charming, he’s pretty laid back and goes with the flow.
During the day, Prince Charming often naps, typical of his nocturnal nature, coming out of a hiding place only to check out what we’re doing when staff reach into this tank to change water bowls or offer food. He eats a combination of mealworms, earthworms, superworms, crickets and occasionally cockroaches.
Our live animals live on the Museum’s staff level as part of our education collection, used most often for outreach programs and field trip programs for school-age youth. We also do live animal encounters afternoons for guests at the museum. Stop by our Naturalist Center to check if there is an encounter during your visit!
Lynn Anders, Animal Care Coordinator