Handling reptiles – Camden High School

Learn about keeping reptiles in schools.

Welcome to Camden High School

Watch Welcome to Camden High School. (2:58)

Katie Elfick, Head Teacher, Science at Camden High explains why she supports the use of reptiles in the classroom.

Narrator: Katie Elfick – Head Teacher of Science.

Welcome to Camden High, a comprehensive school, south of Sydney. I’m Katie Elfick, Head Teacher of Science.

As part of our student engagement and enrichment activities and linking with the curriculum, one of our teachers keeps reptiles within the school. I’m a strong supporter of this because it helps students to engage with our curriculum and helps them to develop a broader understanding of their environment.

Reptiles also can be used within the high school curriculum and lend themselves very well to actively engaging the students and being able to have them involved in the curriculum that we’re teaching. It can be involved in from anywhere from Stage 4 up to Stage 6. And what that means is different aspects can be explored within a classroom setting but putting it into a broader context for student understanding.

So, within Stage 4 ‘The living things’ as with the primary means that we can go through and look at real World examples and put it into a context where students can understand. It also builds upon the work that they’ve done within their primary schools. The other thing that in the curriculum that it can lend itself too is things like reproduction and evolution and also a lot of the environment issues because reptiles in the way they interact with their environment can be put into our context, the human context as well with that.

We also can look at putting these into examples for Year 11 and 12 in Stage 6 where very specific examples are required. And particularly with the Year 11 Biology topic where we have to use Australian examples, reptiles form a really good basis that we can use for a lot of the course concepts within there.

So, what we can do is we can take these things that students know within their environment put it into our classroom and help them to understand what’s happening here but also in their surrounding environment.

James is a dedicated Science teacher who is passionate about reptiles. We’re very lucky to have him within our staff and within our school. He brings a lot of passion and a lot of interest with him into the students. James uses reptiles a lot within his teaching as examples of like I mentioned before the real World examples and a way of also engaging students within the curriculum.

So, where suitable he can use a reptile to you know peak the interest of the students and get them involved in the actual understanding of the underlying curriculum and key concepts that go with it.

James also uses it as a way to engage and build a rapport with students. And this is particularly evident where you see him after school or at lunchtime talking to students about these kinds of issues. And often they’re students who maybe disengaged with other aspects of learning or other aspects of the curriculum in school life. So, it’s a way that these students can actually find a pathway into it. And I think that’s really important as well as providing a way for the students to be actually engaged and have real World examples and find ways that they can make those links with the really important parts of our curriculum.

[End of transcript]

Selecting an animal for the classroom

Watch Selecting an animal for the classroom (0:58)

James Watkins explains how to select suitable animals for keeping in the classroom.

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

So, to actually get your animal what you need to do is after you’ve got your licence is to get in touch with a registered breeder or another person who owns a licence.

Now, in NSW we don’t sell reptiles in pet stores. So, generally the best way to do this is through reptile societies. Now, once you get your animal you want to make sure that it’s healthy, you want to make sure that it’s feeding especially if it’s a snake and you want to make sure that it’s behaviour wise is appropriate for in the classroom, so you’re not going to stress it out too much.

So, when you first acquire your animal and you want to bring it into a classroom there’s a few things you have to take into mind. Obviously, the classroom is a very engaged place with students so it can be very noisy and very interactive at times. So, you want to condition the animal to that environment. Sometimes that means changing your enclosures to better suit that organism. It also could mean maybe just giving it a bit of time to settle in.

[End of transcript]

First aid

Watch First aid (0:27).

James Watkins explains basic first aid if bitten or scratched by a reptile.

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

Bites and scratches are part of keeping reptiles. If you’re ever scratched or bitten it’s general first aid cleans it up. Now, because reptiles live in confined enclosures what you want to do also is clean your hands every time you handle those reptiles. So, what I use whenever I’m cleaning my hands is F10 it’s also a really good cleaning product to keep all your enclosures clean. So, it’s always readily available.

[End of transcript]

Feeding snakes in the classroom

Watch Feeding snakes in the classroom (2:00).

James Watkins explains the process of feeding snakes in the classroom.

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

Okay, so feeding’s part of obviously keeping reptiles and feeding snakes is a little bit different than feeding lizards. Now, best thing when feeding a snake is to use a hook, it’s an extra arm for you. It allows you to get that little bit further into a tank without getting bitten. I feed my snakes in a separate feeding container. It’s better than feeding them inside the enclosure because then they associate anything going into the enclosure as food. So, it separates the enclosure and their feeding.

So, let’s get one out.

Right, Lauren do you want to bring that rat over? Alrighty. And just hold him in front of his head.

Very important with keeping reptiles that you make sure you get the adequate food sources that they need. Having lizards obviously requires certain things such as different crickets, insects, cockroaches. Also different vegetables and fruit supplies. You can get them from either your local pet stores or also vegetables from your local supermarket.

Snakes on the other hand tend to need dead rats. Now, these you get from your local pet store as well and it’s important that you don’t give them live mice or rats.

[End of transcript]

Handling reptiles

Watch Handling reptiles (0:31)

James Watkins explains best practice in handling reptiles that are kept in the classroom.

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

Keeping reptiles in the classroom comes with a few things that you need to think of. Now, firstly when you first get it to your classroom, of course the kids are going to be excited. They’re all wanting to have a hold. They’re all going to want to come up and tap the glass. It’s really important that you maintain the animal’s well-being and make sure that if the kids are going to hold it, they use proper handling techniques and support the animals at all time. The key to this is minimising stress. Distressed animals and you’re not going to have a happy reptile.

[End transcript]

Keeping records

Watch Keeping records (1:15).

James Watkins explains how record keeping can be incorporated into teaching activities.

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

Having reptiles in the classroom allows a number of different opportunities for you and your students. Not only is there the welfare side where you’re going to be measuring and checking their feeding records and growth.

Put the lizard in.

So, you’ve got the Mathematics side of it but you’ve also got the Science side. You’ve got different things such as measuring.

Twenty five and a half centimetres.

Interpreting data and teamwork. And individual work as well.

Part of routinely keeping animals in school involves record keeping. For me that means maintaining their feeding records but also such things like behaviour or any cleaning and condition, things that I notice. It’s really advantageous in schools as well because you can get the students engaged in that. They can help you to also clean the tanks but also with these record keepings.

Also in school if you have more than one teacher looking after the reptiles that helps with maintaining records as well.

[End of transcript]

Housing reptiles in the classroom

Watch Housing reptiles in the classroom (2:50).

James Watkins explains important points in setting up the housing for reptiles in the classroom and holiday care..

Narrator: James Watkins – teacher

Part of having reptiles in the classroom allow for extra educational opportunities.

The lizards and snakes quite often get brought up in conversation with different syllabus points that we’re looking at and just general conversation. The reptiles have been specifically set up in this position in the classroom. I had to take that into account when setting it up to minimise both the stress and the interaction with the students. I set them up over here away from the windows and doors so that they’re not getting too much interaction from students at lunchtimes.

Also, it helps me to regulate the temperature so that the lizards are at optimum condition at all time. Having them towards the front of the room allows me to watch what the students are doing whilst they’re interacting with them too. So, it’s really useful for both myself, the students and the reptiles.

A really important feature of keeping reptiles in school is enclosure security. It’s not just for the reptiles but also for the students inside the class. I find glass sliding locks work really well.

You might notice that my enclosures are actually made out of timber. There’s lots of different available varieties of enclosures that you can buy, both commercially and home-made. These ones here I made myself. You can quite often get glass aquariums and that which work just as well though.

Now, in part of keeping reptiles is cleanliness. Now, as you can see unfortunately they do go to the toilet. So, you need to clean that up. The best way to do it is with spot cleaning.

So, that’s going through once a day and just removing any waste that’s around. The whole tank should get cleaned out probably about every three to four months. That’s changing the substrate, washing it all down an cleaning anything else that needs to be done in there.

Right now we’re going to get one of our students, Rebecca to do a bit of a spot clean for us.

Now, sometimes there’s little bits that you can’t get. I quite often find a sieve really useful for that. So, what happens when it comes to holidays.

Now, as part of the scientific licence you’re actually allowed to take these animals home and transport them there. I, myself I take them home. Sometimes though you don’t have that ability.

Now, because reptiles need to be maintained and cared for everyday of their life what you could sometimes do is organise another teacher, general assistant or even yourself to come in through the holidays and help maintain those animals.

[End of transcript]

Student interest in keeping reptiles

Watch Student interest in keeping reptiles (1:02)

Several students from Camden High explain why they enjoy keeping reptiles.

Student 1

I’ve been interested in both reptiles and bugs ever since I was little, for as long as I can remember really. I have fond memories of chasing the other girls around at school in kindergarten with bugs I’d found in the playground.

My first reptile I got in about Year 5 and it was a snake very similar to this, a little spotted python.

Student 2

Well, I’m allergic to dogs so they kind of like just my pet because I can’t play with anything else. So, I think of them as part of the family.

My Mum’s in love with them. She’s mainly the one who plays with them. She’s always just in there feeding them. She’s really interactive with them. She loves them.

Student 3

It’s interesting seeing how they’re great with interacting with the students and really engaging for the students. And it’s also influenced my hobbies at home. Obviously, I’ve got a spotted python and just having them in my everyday environment really helps with what I want to do after school, zoology or veterinary science.

[End of transcript]


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