Snakes alive!

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Slimy studies at PLAS

Herpetologists Jimmy and Sierra Stiles, who work with Touchstone Energy Corp., presented programs at Pike Liberal Arts Schools Tuesday as a way of teaching the students about animals in Alabama and about the animals that can be found under the state’s power lines.

The program was sponsored by South Alabama Electric Cooperative. SAEC representative, Chellie Phillips, said the electric cooperative always has to conduct environmental studies before putting up power lines.

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“We have to make sure that, while doing the work, the natural habitats of the animals that live in the area are not destroyed,” Phillips said. “The animals that the herpetologists bring to show to the children are the animals that might be found under the power lines or in their own backyards.”

Jimmy Stiles told the third- and fourth-grade students that the program that he and Sierra present is more than an opportunity to see, touch and even hold animals, it’s an opportunity to learn more about them.

The students learned that there are many different animal classes and every animal in the world belongs to one of them.

They learned that vertebrates are animals with backbones and there are five classes of vertebrates – mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. They also learned that there are animals that have no backbone, like spiders and insects.

They are called invertebrates.

The students learned other important facts, such as all mammals have hair and that humans are mammals and that lizards have eyelids and ears but snakes do not.

The students in Mrs. Norman’s third-grade class readily absorbed all that learning and eagerly awaited the “coming of the animals.”

At first, many of them shied away from the parade of frogs, salamanders, snakes and alligators. But, after watching “Mr. Jimmy” handle the animals, most of the students stiffened up their own spines and touched, and then held, the critters that, at first, had caused them to shudder and scream.

“This was a wonderful learning experience for the students,” Phillip said. “South Alabama Electric is proud to be able to bring this learning and fun experience to elementary students in our area each year.”