The students were warned not to scream. The noise might scare Cornelius right back into his box.
Cornelius is the snake who visited Riverview Elementary second-graders Monday.
Thanks to a $46,300 Duke Energy Foundation Grant, the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill is bringing wildlife to Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Lancaster second grade classrooms, a release states. The Duke Energy Foundation funds wildlife conservation efforts and environmental education programs in Duke Energy’s service territory in South Carolina.
On Monday, the Greenway’s education staff visited Riverview Elementary in Fort Mill. The students got to interact with Miller, the Greenway’s box turtle, and Cornelius, a corn snake.
“This grant offers us an opportunity to give a lot of students experiences they are not normally going to get,” said Kelly Murphy, education specialist for the Greenway.
The students enjoyed touching Miller’s shell and seeing him walk around the classroom.
Nothing compared to Cornelius, though.
As he was brought out, the students sat in their chairs, barely containing their excitement.
The second-graders each had a turn feeling Cornelius’ smooth skin and seeing how he used his tongue to ‘taste’ the air. One student said the snake was cute.
The visit wasn’t just about fun. It also was a lesson on reptiles. Sara Lee, environmental educator for the Greenway, taught students what characteristics reptiles share and what makes a box turtle unique. She taught them that corn snakes are so named because they are often found in corn fields, where rodents, their food source, are plenty. Lee also said turtles’ shells grow with them.
The students also got to see and feel a snake skin shed in the wild from a long black rat snake. They asked questions, such as whether snakes are poisonous and if they bite. No snakes are poisonous, as poisonous means something that is ingested that can make the person or animal sick, Lee said.
Some snakes, however, are venomous, meaning they produce venom when they bite, which can harm prry. Corn snakes, like Cornelius, are not venomous, Lee said. Cornelius, she said, also is used to people and does not bite.
“There’s a lot of fear out there when it comes to reptiles and I think this will help educate the students so they know that reptiles, even though we should be wary of them in their natural habitat, don't have to be scary,” Murphy said.
There’s a lot of fear out there when it comes to reptiles and I think this will help educate the students so they know that reptiles, even though we should be wary of them in their natural habitat, don't have to be scary.
Kelly Murphy, Anne Springs Close Greenway
The Greenway received the grant in December and was one of 13 environmental nonprofit organizations to benefit from more than $350,000 in environmental grants in 2016, according to a release.
“We are dedicated to protecting the natural beauty of South Carolina and being good stewards of the environment,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina president. “By supporting the organizations that do this work each and every day, we can help protect and restore wildlife and natural resources, and support quality environmental education programs in our state.”
As of March, the Greenway’s education staff had visited 13 schools in Lancaster, bringing the joy of nature into 51 classes and reaching more than 1,173 students. The Greenway is planning to visit 37 schools in the Lancaster, Fort Mill and Rock Hill school districts -- that’s 4,000 students, the release said.
“For many residents in Lancaster, the Anne Springs Close Greenway can seem far away. The Duke Energy Foundation grant has given children across the county a chance to experience the Greenway without leaving the classroom,” said Dr. Michelle Evans, director of education for the Anne Springs Close Greenway.
The Duke Energy Foundation funds $2 million in grants in South Carolina each year to support initiatives in K-12 education, workforce development and community impact, the release said.