The Museum of Science Comes to Sea Road School

[add_slideshow align=right caption=”Sea Road School fourth-graders learn about animal adaptations from the Museum of Science” size =”medium”]

When Norman the skink emerged from his bin, a momentary hush fell over the fourth- graders. Then came the chorus of “Cool!”s and “Wow!”s as Animal Adaptations presenter Katie Slivensky brought the lizard up close so the kids could really see him, all two feet of his green reptile self.

Animal Adaptations is a traveling program from the Museum of Science in Boston that brings reptiles, amphibians, and birds, among other creatures, to students all over New England to teach them about how animals survive in their natural environments.

Norman’s natural habitat is the Solomon Islands rainforest. “Most people see lizards and think they want to eat a bug,” Slivensky says. Not true. Norman eats leaves. Lizards like him are born with claws and tails that cling to tree trunks so they can access their food source from the get-go.

Otis the Screech Owl, on the other hand, looks like tree bark to keep him from becoming a meal for a larger owl. His neck with 14 bones in it can swivel his head three quarters of a turn so he can keep a constant vigil around him. Our necks with 7 bones don’t quite compare.

Brenda Case, the fourth-grade team leader, says the presentation helps children to understand the fourth-grade life science curriculum: How plants and animals can change over time to survive the climate or environment they live in. “It brings what the students are learning to life. It makes it real. It makes connections.”

Slivensky also brought an american toad for students to see. They learned how he can explode poison sacs on his head or blow up with air if swallowed by a snake or other predator to try to force it to spit him out. The toad’s cold-blooded system allows him to adapt to any temperature he lives in. It means he only has to eat once a week to survive, unlike warm-blooded human beings who eat constantly to stay warm.

After the presentation, the child scientists studied skulls. Their mission: to determine what type of animal each skull belonged to when the animal was alive. They checked teeth, eye sockets and jaw bones. Was the animal a hunter or the hunted?

“Hopefully their minds will start working in a more scientific way,” says Slivensky. “I hope they use observation and deduction and realize everything an animal does has a purpose.”

How the toad saves himself from predators was not lost on the kids.

“I like that the toad can inflate,” said Margaret.

“I like how the snake can pop it, and still eat it,” said Kelsey. “The snake has to eat too.”

Three other Museum of Science Traveling Programs came to Sea Road School this year. The other topics were Motions: Forces & Work; Electromagnetism; and Cryogenics: States of Matter. The Education Foundation provided $1,800 in funds to bring the presentations to Sea Road School.