The third-graders at the Searingtown School in Albertson break into laughter as reptile expert Erik Callender — Skyping with them live from the Southeast Asian island of Borneo — holds up a toad and the reptile responds by going No. 1 on Callender’s computer keyboard.
That’s nature in the wild — unpredictable. “Hey toad, we’re going to put a Pampers on you like a little baby,” Callender says, using a tissue to protect his laptop as he continued Skyping with the 8-year-olds from the jungle, teaching them the meaning of “endemic” and showing them snakes, turtles, scorpions, a flying lizard with wings, and more species native to that part of the world.
Callender, who is from Long Island, was Skyping with the students as part of his effort to bring animals from halfway around the world into Long Island classrooms using the power of the internet.
“I liked seeing the snake and learning about its venom,” Daneen Gondal, 8, of Roslyn Heights, says after the program.
Eleni Gavaris, 8, also of Roslyn Heights, echoes her classmate. “It was twirling around the stick,” she says. “I’m not a big fan of reptiles because they’re really creepy and scary.”
She also says she liked when Callender showed the class an adult Asian box turtle and a baby turtle. “He was really funny because he was acting out the turtle’s voice,” Eleni says.
The school’s PTA brought the program to the school — Callender Skyped with each grade in a separate session. They could see him, and he could see the whole class and answer their questions.
“He’s got such a great personality,” says PTA co-president Genara DiGirolomo. “It’s very engaging.” Callender is scheduled to Skype later this month with other Long Island classes from the Central American country of Costa Rica.