Meet Our Snake: Students first handle 'Kinky' our snake

Paul Romani

After several weeks of learning about snakes, Pear Tree students have handled a snake for the first time!
It is always interesting when children first meet any animal. They instinctively want to handle it and buy one! What Pear Tree feels is essential, though, is to make kids (and parents) realise that it isn’t very responsible to handle or buy something that you know nothing about. Our analogy is that it’s like giving a 7 year old a baby to hold – never having been told how to how a baby correctly. Imagine the potential harm that could be caused.
So, there’s a lot of scaffolding and gradual learning about responsibility for the care of other people and living creatures. Then, we talk about animal behaviour. We make comparisons with human beings: “How do you feel when your mum smothers you? Do you like it when she washes your face really hard and you can’t see? How do you feel? Kind of irritated, right? Well, that’s how a snake feels. And what do you think a snake will do when you irritate it?” It takes a lot of repetition for kids to appreciate what you’re telling them. They always ignore you to start with.
Now, of course, Kinky (name acquired from the lumpy deformities on her back) isn’t venomous, and is completely harmless to humans. In fact, she’s been to many schools and has been handled by many children. However, like any creature, she is capable of biting. We want to children to appreciate these natural instincts and to show respect – not just for the snake, but for each other.