Students have a ‘RAD’ time with reptilesSunbeam the albino python was only one of several critters – including snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises and even a three-foot-long alligator named “Snaggletooth” – on display during a Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo presentation at Queen of Peace School in Cloquet Friday afternoon.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Six-year-old Willow Sowada said she was a just “a little bit scared” holding Sunbeam – an albino Burmese python that probably weighs as much as she does – during a school program Friday.
“But it was really cool,” said the little girl, wearing a paper birthday crown on her special day.
Sunbeam was only one of several critters – including snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises and even a three-foot-long alligator named “Snaggletooth” – on display during a Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo presentation at Queen of Peace School in Cloquet Friday afternoon.
RAD Zoo proprietor Jamie Pastika effortlessly answered a range of questions about reptiles and shared some interesting tales as well.
Or is that tails?
He introduced “Dottie,” the leopard gecko.
“Her tail keeps her safe,” he said, describing the small lizard’s tail as a “tear on the dotted line” appendage. “If something grabs on to her tail, it will come right off and continue to flop around, so whatever animal is trying to eat her will be preoccupied with the tail long enough for her to get away.”
The crazy animal stories went both ways.
“We have basilisk lizards at the zoo that run so fast they can run on top of water,” Pastika said.
“I saw a red-eyed tree frog climbing at my house,” said a solemn young audience member, unaware that the little frogs hail from Central America.
At the end of the program, any child (or adult) who wanted to touch the gold and white python was invited to come up to the front of the room and meet Sunbeam personally.
“I like the big snake because it feels like soft corn,” said Aviana, 5, afterward.
Pastika said he’s been fascinated by reptiles since he was a child, visiting his grandparents (Esther and Roland Pastika and Orville and Judy Koski) in Cloquet.
“When I was younger than [the audience members], I was out catching garter snakes and painted turtles,” Pastika said, adding that he worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom before he and his wife started their family zoo in Owatonna, Minn.
The RAD Zoo also visited Washington, Churchill and Fond du Lac Ojibwe schools last week. The R.E.A.C.H. mentoring program arranged and paid for the RAD Zoo trip north from Owatonna.
R.E.A.C.H. Director Dakota Koski said the mentoring organization paid for the programs at area schools as a way of giving back to the community.
“It’s also a good way to let people know who we are and what we do,” said Koski, noting that the program currently has about 50 kids matched with mentors and another 25-30 on a waiting list, along with a number of other kids who participate with social workers or probation officers.
To find out more, visit www.reachmentoringprogram.com. To find out more about the zoo, visit www.theradzoo.com.