Library lesson springs to life

The unspoken rule of whispering and hushed conversations was completely ignored Tuesday morning at Boulder City Library. Instead, squeals of delight — and disgust — echoed in the community room as things that slither, creep and crawl were brought out one by one.

Snakes, tarantulas, giant hissing cockroaches, a lizard, a bullfrog, two rats and two tortoises were introduced to children as part of a special program to teach the youngsters about desert denizens and other animals.

Chuck Meyer, a microbiologist for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and former Boulder City resident, brought several of his pets to the library for the program. He said he often visits schools and participates in educational programs through the water authority’s Las Vegas Wash team.

The kids were captivated by the animals and listened intently as Chuck spoke about each one, offering tidbits about where they lived, their traits and what they ate.

They watched as Harold the Hog Island boa hung out on a plastic “tree,” witnessed how a rubber boa can double as jewelry when it wrapped itself around a finger, and giggled as Chuck pointed out the word “yay” on his California king snake, Snakey MacSnakerton III, who was “obviously” happy to be there.

Nearly all were willing to be “hit” with the whiplike tail of the red racer/coachwhip to see how little it hurt even though the snake was originally feared because people thought it could use its tail as a weapon.

It wasn’t until the collared lizard escaped and scampered about the room, causing Chuck to dive to the ground to try to catch it, that the children’s enthusiasm overflowed and they couldn’t be contained in their seats.

Chuck compared the lizard, which has small front arms, to a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He had just explained how the lizard will get on its back legs and run in an upright position when the reptile decided to give a presentation of its own, surprising Chuck and the rest of those in the room.

His bullfrog must have witnessed the escape attempt, trying one of his own before squirting Chuck with mucous.

That pattern of fighting back and discontent continued when Chuck’s son, Charlie, brought out a dumbo-eared hairless rat, which he quickly handed off to his father.

The animals’ antics only seemed to encourage the kids to egg them on.

But it was the finale that really sealed the deal: a race between desert tortoise Sheldon and Russian tortoise Tortellini. The kids swarmed the table, cheering on their favorite tortoise.

The tranquility normally found at the library was gone. In its place was a palpable enthusiasm. Sure, the kids could have learned the same thing by reading a book, yet they may not remember it quite as clearly as the day Harold and Snakey came to visit.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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