Lawton fourth graders going wild!

Lawton_Noises from the wild animals greeted Comanche County fourth graders as they explored their environment at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday.  A trapper in the outdoor classroom played recordings of the different creatures they could encounter in the wild.  Fourth grader Hunter Davis acknowledged, "I really don't like doing schoolwork, really, at all...but to get out here and to see the snakes and stuff is really cool."

There are serious snakes:  timber rattlers, western diamondbacks and cottonmouths.  Fourth grade teacher from Lawton's Pioneer Park Elementary, Jamie Claiborn, says, "It teaches them how to stay safe when they come hiking, or they come biking out in the mountains."  Teachers say a lot of theses kids never get into the outdoors to experience nature.

Student Nicholas Crisel says, "The only time I get to see snakes is when I see garden snakes in my front yard."  Garden snakes are harmless, but the rattlesnakes the students saw today are not.  "Ron Orf is a rattlesnake specialist.  "We try to teach them what to do, and what not to do, whe it comes to snakes...and the main thing is not to pick 'em up like we do."  Picking up a snake is just asking for a bite.  Orf has been bitten five times himself but still handles them.  He brought one snake out for the kids to touch.

Soni Parsons also teachers fourth grade at Pioneer Park.  "It's hands-on.  They get to actually see the stuff.  We have textbooks we teach out of, and we try to bring in things when we can..."  But it can't beat being outdoors on a perfect day.  "You get to be outdoors and get to experience nature and all its ways."

The kids will tell you it's a lot more fun that sitting inside doing paperwork, but they were not the only ones having fun today.  One teacher said several facts learned today were going to be integrated into next year's lessons.  Reporter Robert Richardson says he learned that beavers don't just chew wood to build their homes, they have to chew or their teeth will grow so long that they will die.  More fourth graders will visit the refuge learning stations on Thursday and Friday.