Five-year-old Matthew Pukki didn’t mind sharing his classroom with Monty, the ball python. In fact, he enjoyed it.
A variety of animals, including Henrietta the hen, box and sea turtles Myrtle and Fred, Midnight the rabbit and, of course, Monty were on display Thursday morning for kindergartens to pet and feed at Deauville Gardens Elementary School in Copiague.
“I liked touching the snake because he felt gooey,” Matthew said. “It was fun.”
Janine Bendicksen, curator at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, led the hands-on demonstration. She discussed why animals should be valued and taken care of.
“Nowadays, most kids are losing the connection with animals,” Bendicksen said. “Bringing these animals to the classroom and letting them touch and feed them helps the children to understand how important an animal is.”
Kindergarten teacher Natalia Brite said being up close and personal with the animals makes learning much more entertaining.
“For our science unit in kindergarten, we are studying animals and how they migrate and hibernate,” Brite said. “We thought it would be fun for the students to have the animal visit their classroom rather than go to Sweetbriar. Last year, when Sweetbriar visited, the hen actually laid an egg right here in our classroom. The kids loved it.”
Deauville Gardens Assistant Principal Joseph Buccello added, “This is an amazing experience for the students. For many of them, this is the first time seeing a snake or a rabbit up close.”
Ivana Zaldivar, 5, couldn’t agree more after touching furry Midnight.
“He was so soft,” she said. I liked him the best.”
Above: Kindergartner David Alvarez, center, reacts as his classmate, Taylor Wall, left, touches a ball python handled by Janine Bendicksen of the Sweetbriar Nature Center in a kindergarten class at Deauville Gardens Elementary School in Copiague. (Jan. 26, 2012)