Seattle, WA 2009
Just in time for Halloween GICS sponsored a local outreach effort with youth in the King County Detention center for Juveniles. Nick Sutton conducted his program "The Snake Experience" engaging 12 wide eyed and curious individuals. The Snake Experience gives individuals an opportunity to see up close and in person snakes from all over the world - from pythons dominating the food chain in the exotic tropics to colorful domestic snakes found in the US. While touching and observing the snakes the kids gained a first hand appreciation and general respect for all of wildlife.
Was it successful? Well, at the end of the presentation two individuals came up and asked if we had internships available. Keep in mind, this wasn't a presentation for high school honor students looking toward the sciences for their future - these were troubled kids with a head start down the wrong road in life and this was a clear sign that we had made a positive impression.
We are currently seeking a grant to be able to offer this program for the King County Juvenile Center on a regular basis. And yes, as our organization grows we do see internships and opportunities to offer hands on research and conservation projects for underserved yet deserving youth. May I refer you to our ever important donation page?
Sometimes Success is Measured in Baby Steps
While in the Bahamas we took time out from research to talk with a local group of children at their school. When we asked the question "What do you do when you see a snake?" They responded loud and clear - "Kill it!" We knew we had our work cut out for us.
We used a local "volunteer" wild caught snake for the discussion and demonstrations. The kids were able to see, touch, hold, and learn about snakes - the fact that this one came from their own village was especially useful. For many this was their first positive experience with a snake and it left a very good impression cutting through fears, misinformation and old beliefs. They are fortunate in that there is very little threat of venomous snakes in their village and we discussed the positive and vital role snakes play in their ecosystem.
Most of the people on this island rely on agriculture and farming either growing food for sale or for their own families. After our discussion they had a much greater appreciation of how the local snakes control the rodent populations and without their help crops would be decimated by overpopulations of rats and mice.
At the end of our time we again asked the question "What do you do when you see a snake?" - And they responded loud and clear - "Run Away!"
Well, it's progress, at least this time the snake lives.