Not many people can say they’ve high-fived an alligator, but for Drew, a child enrolled in the Infant-Toddler Program at Perkins School for the Blind, the opportunity presented itself during a recent visit from a local exotic animal specialist.
As Drew and the other children crowded around, Corey Kummel from Curious Creatures in Groveland, Massachusetts, introduced a bevy of unusual animals, including a flying squirrel, a dragon lizard and a six-foot carpet python named Monte.
The visit was an exceptional learning opportunity for the youngsters with visual impairments, who were encouraged to pet the various animals, including a baby alligator named Chili.
“They were able to really experience, touch and look at an animal up close that they would never have the opportunity to otherwise,” said Perkins teacher Susan DeCaluwe. “We talk about animals (in class) but it’s in the abstract – this is concrete.”
All the animals were very tame and used to human contact, and the event was closely monitored for safety. Here are some highlights…
After petting the soft hair of an angora rabbit, David reached out to touch the hard shell of a tortoise.
Maisey, a sibling of a Perkins student, was excited to meet Rusty, a corn snake with brightly colored skin that felt smooth to the touch.
With encouragement from his teacher, James carefully stroked the velvet-like fur of a chinchilla named Seamus.
Instead of bathing in water, chinchillas like Seamus keep clean by rolling in dust, which absorbs the oil and dirt from their fur. Kummel set out a clear bowl of dust to demonstrate.
Kummel showed a group of students how to pet Seamus without scaring him. “This is probably the softest animal you guys have ever touched,” he said.
Later, students got an up-close introduction to Bruce, a dumpy tree frog with a neon green back.
Bo extended an enthusiastic greeting to Lily the dragon lizard, who stuck out her tongue as a way to smell her surroundings.
The high-contrast patterns along Lily’s back and tail were intriguing to many of the students with low vision.
Before introducing Chili, the baby alligator, to students, Corey showed them her rows of white teeth. “She has 80 altogether, but can’t stick out her tongue,” he said.
Drew and Chili high-fived to end the presentation.