They do like spiders and snakes!

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 25, 2010

Frogs, lizards and snakes, oh, my – that’s what Andalusia Elementary School fifth graders saw Wednesday during a class field trip.

The field trip, which was originally scheduled to be at Open Pond, came to the school because of cold temperatures and rain.

Fifth grade science teacher Deb Hughes said she felt it went well despite having to bring the activities indoors.

Herpetologists Jimmy and Sierra Stiles of the Cooperative Environment program of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives showed the fifth graders different types of reptiles and amphibians, all of which are native to this portion of Alabama.

Students had the opportunity to hold spade foot toads and salamanders.

“This is really cool,” said fifth grader Ciera Pressley. “I’m really excited that I got a chance to hold a salamander in real life.”

“I’m scared of frogs, but I like lizards and snakes,” said fifth grader Casey Lewis.

Students learned that while there are only two types of salamanders in the Amazon Rainforest, Alabama has many more than two.

“Alabama is one of the most biological places in the world,” Jimmy Stiles said. “The southeastern United States has more salamanders than the world, and Alabama has more salamanders than a lot of other countries.”

Much to students’ surprise, Stiles told students some salamanders around here can get up to 5 feet tall.

“I was surprised to learn that salamanders get up to 5 feet long,” said fifth grader Jaden Brown. “This has been a fun experience.”

Fifth graders learned the differences between frogs and amphibians, which include the fact that salamanders have tails and frogs do not; and frogs are designed to jump.

Students had the opportunity to see a gopher tortoise shell and learned that tortoises are keystone species in their ecosystem.

They also learned that contrary to popular belief, turtles and tortoises cannot crawl out of their shells because their backbone is actually connected to the shell.

Students learned the difference between legless lizards and snakes and had the opportunity to see, hold and pet a glass lizard and corn snake.

“Lizards have ears, but they aren’t big and floppy,” said Jimmy Stiles. “They also have eyelids, but snakes do not.”

“I learned how their eyelids move,” said Mahallie Harrison. “That was cool.”

Students learned that there are three kinds of glass lizards that live in the Conecuh National Forest, which Stiles said is a rarity.

Even more rare is a type of glass lizard that lives there.

“One that lives in the Conecuh National Forest is the rarest glass lizard in the world,” Stiles said. “The rarest live in the pitcher plant bogs.”

Another interesting tidbit students learned is that corn snakes, which are also known as chicken snakes, can climb straight up a tree. Stiles said this is not common in most snakes.

Lastly, students had the opportunity to pet a small alligator.

“Alligators nearly went extinct, but this is one of the greatest success stories,” Stiles said.

Other sessions, included a history lesson on animals, history and culture and a presentation by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources about wild game in the Andalusia area.