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Posted by: varanid at Sun Oct 4 12:57:01 2009  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by varanid ]  
   

I missed this post for along time apparently.
I've done talks for boy scouts and cub scouts before, and currently volunteer as a docent at our city zoo. So I've got some really neat experiences doing this. Most of the kids in the zoo that I talk to are in the younger crowd--they come up to my thighs! Tiny things.

For young kids, work humor into your presentation. Try to keep the time spent on each topic pretty short (5 minutes or so works well for me). They don't have huge attention spans, or huge stores of knowledge to draw on. So keep it brief and basic. I like to cover (if I'm talking about a specific critter) where they are from, what they eat, how big they get and how long they live. I usually let them touch an animal, but I hold and control the animal. I keep the head near me, have them touch the back 1/3 of the critter--that way if anyone gets bit it's me.

Kind of an example spiel about ball pythons that I use at the zoo.

"This is our ball python. He's about 12 years old, and we've had him since he was a baby. He can live up to 40 years! So if you think about getting one, remember you'll still have it when you're as old as your dad!. Ball pythons don't get much bigger than this (he's about 3.5', maybe 5 pounds). Does anyone know why they might call them a ball python? (listen to usually weird answers). They call them that because if they're scared, they ball up and hide their head. This one isn't doing it right now because he isn't scared; he's used to people. They come from Africa, where they eat small rodents like gerbils and African rats. Does anyone know how they find the rodents? (then point out heat pits and talk about the tongue)."

I also like to have sheds and skulls available; I have a very big Argentine boa constrictor that I save the sheds from when I can. He's about 8' and the sheds are about 10-11' now, so it makes a great visual to demonstrate how big some snakes can get. I couldn't let Yoda wrap around a kid--for one thing he weighs as much as some of the younger ones--but that way they can see how the larger snakes compare to humans. Once my retics get bigger I'll probably use their sheds too. We also have replica skulls--they can be affordable, we get them from Bone Clone or Skulls Unlimited. Some of the larger ones are pricey (the big gator skulls are several hundred bucks) but the snake and lizard skulls aren't bad. That way I can safely show them the teeth and how the jaws are built. It also lets you work in lame but usually appreciated jokes ("See, this is the safe way to see a snakes teeth!".

At the zoo the only animals we have for touching right now are a Burmese we don't usually bring out (just cause it takes 2 people to control), the ball, a cal king and a rosy. We're raising up some more animals; geckos, a couple of kings, some other stuff.

On my personal presentations I keep the same rough formula--I bring my ball python, Yoda, and my albino retic and a tiger salamander. I just bought a speckled king and I'm going to buy some Trans Pecos rats to show people some local stuff as well. I think bringing stuff they might see locally is neat, it's just I don't personally have much and I don't do presentations enough to really build a collection just for them.


   

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