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The Snake Scientist Discussion Guide

The Snake Scientist Discussion Guide

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Grabbing handfuls of writhing, slithering snakes and stuffing them in sacks is just one of several aspects of The Snake Scientist that will lure future biologists and scientists to yet another visually and intellectually stimulating examination of what scientists do to further our understanding of our world. Readers journey with Bob Mason and crew as they discover “snake juice,” the first discovered reptile pheromone. This discovery not only helps scientists discover how red-sided garter snakes find their mate, but also may hold the key to understanding animal migration.
Grabbing handfuls of writhing, slithering snakes and stuffing them in sacks is just one of several aspects of The Snake Scientist that will lure future biologists and scientists to yet another visually and intellectually stimulating examination of what scientists do to further our understanding of our world. Readers journey with Bob Mason and crew as they discover “snake juice,” the first discovered reptile pheromone. This discovery not only helps scientists discover how red-sided garter snakes find their mate, but also may hold the key to understanding animal migration.

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Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Jul 31, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/03/2014

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Houghton Miin Harcourt Books or Young ReadersVisit www.sciencemeetsadventure.com or authors’ Adventure Notes, teacher resources, videos, and more!
 About the Series
The Snake Scientist 
is part o the award-winning Scientists in the Field series, which beganin 1999. This distinguished and innovative series examines the work o real-lie scientistsdoing actual research. Young readers discover what it is like to be a working scientist,investigate an intriguing research project in action, and gain a wealth o knowledge aboutascinating scientifc topics. Outstanding writing and stellar photography are eatures o every book in the series. Reading levels vary, but the books will interest a wide range o readers.
 
The Snake Scientist 
by Sy MontgomeryPhotographs by Nic Bishop
 About the Book
Grabbing handuls o writhing, slithering snakes and stufng them in sacks isjust one o several aspects o 
The Snake Scientist 
that will lure uture biologistsand scientists to yet another visually and intellectually stimulating examina-tion o what scientists do to urther our understanding o our world. Readersjourney with Bob Mason and crew as they discover “snake juice,” the frstdiscovered reptile pheromone. This discovery not only helps scientists discoverhow red-sided garter snakes fnd their mate, but also may hold the key to un-derstanding animal migration.
 About the Author 
The author Sy Montgomery’s lie would make a ascinating book. Whileresearching some o her many books, she has been bitten by a vampire bat,hugged by an octopus, hunted by a tiger, and in a pit with 18,000 snakes! Shehas written more than fteen books or adults and children and has won manyhonors including the Orbis Pictus Award, the Robert F. Sibert Award, the HenryBergh Award or Nonfction, and many more.Sy is an ardent conservationist. Besides writing books, she is a screenwriter orflm and television, a columnist or the
Boston Globe,
and a popular speaker.She works with many organizations to preserve and protect nature. Sy lives ona arm in New Hampshire with her husband and many animals.Nic Bishop is the photographer or
The Snake Scientist 
and he is also the authoro more than sixty books. Nic holds a Ph.D. in biology rom Canterbury Uni-versity. Nic’s parents were biologists too, and because o their jobs, Nic grew upin Bangladesh, the Sudan, and Papua New Guinea. He started taking picturesas a child with his sister’s Brownie camera, and he has been photographinganimals and the wild and remote places they live ever since. Nic and his wiemoved to the United States in 1994.
Where ScienceMeets Adventure
The Snake Scientist 
by Sy Montgomery Photographs by Nic Bishop
Discussion anD activity GuiDe
 
Discussion anD activity GuiDe
The Snake Scientist 
By Sy Montgomery Photographs by Nic Bishop
Houghton Miin Harcourt Books or Young ReadersVisit www.sciencemeetsadventure.com or authors’ Adventure Notes, teacher resources, videos, and more!Nic has won many awards or his books including a RobertF. Sibert Medal (and three Honor Awards), the Orbis PictusAward, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award.
 Pre-Reading Activity
At Halloween parties students regularly plunge their handsinto globs o cold spaghetti, which the horror-master claimswith the voice o doom are human brains or intestines.Peeled grapes become eyeballs. The whole purpose o thisun is to evoke a natural predisposition to shudder withrevulsion and ear. In small groups make a list o other iconso ear and discuss the steps we take to manage these ears, i not completely overcome them.Discuss ways in which ears and superstitions have comeback to haunt us with other scary animals like wolves, spi-ders, bats, sharks, and others.
 Discussion Questions
When a community decides to build a neighborhood outo ormerly wild lands, what (i any) concessions shouldbe given to the plant and animal lie that preceded the newhousing development? Does it make any dierence i theanimals are creatures like snakes, spiders, coyotes, scorpions,wolves, or other similar creatures?Look at the three pictures on page 5. How do we teachourselves to become comortable with creatures that rightenus? How much have our own cultural customs and attitudestoward snakes inuenced how we view snakes and how wereact when we unexpectedly come into contact with one?Red-sided garter snakes are harmless—does this matter interms o our ear? Does this answer change i the snake is arattlesnake?What benefts to an ecosystem do snakes, bats, spiders, et al.provide? Look at the logo o the American Medical Associa-tion. Why snakes?The benefts rom creatures like snakes oten are maskedbeneath our ear o these creatures. What steps should acommunity take to insure that snakes become a respectedand appreciated member o our shared ecosystem (even i they are never loved or our avorite organisms)?Why have snakes been so successul in evolutionary terms,existing as a species even longer than dinosaurs?
 Applying and Extending Our Knowledge
On pages 11 and 12 Montgomery states that red-sidedgarter snakes are born in the marshes but do not return tothe snake den until they are two years old. At the end o thebook the question o where the snakes go or their frst twoyears is listed as an unsolved mystery.
•
 Research the Narcisse Wildlie Management Area inManitoba, Canada. Look at pictures and videos o thearea. Read descriptions o the area around the dens.Make an independent prediction or where newbornsnakes spend their frst two years o lie. Make sure toconsider water sources, ood sources, and protectionrom predators.
•
 Ater students have ormed an independent predictionor how young snakes spend their frst years o lie, ormgroups and share predictions. Evaluate the pros and conso each member’s prediction.
•
 Make a group prediction based on the evaluation o each individual prediction and suggest several methodsor testing the group prediction. Keep in mind this quoterom page 17:
“Think of it: these are cold-blooded ani-mals, yet they’re living where it can snow eight monthsout of the year. ‘These snakes are living on the edge,’says Bob. ‘This is a harsh environment for a reptile. If they don’t make it back to the den in September theywon’t survive.’”
How, then, could newborn snakessurvive?Montgomery states that when a two-year-old snake enters aden or the frst time, it will return to the same den year ateryear. Snakes receive, according to the text,
“a temporarystripe of color made with a marker on their bellies or with asilver letter painted on their heads.”
(p. 11)
•
 I the marking is only temporary, how do scientistsknow the same snake returns to the same den? Discuss.In groups, discuss why scientists would not want topermanently mark snakes. Discuss why there is not anymention o tagging snakes. Discuss ways in which yourgroup would go about determining how one could provethat a snake comes back to the same den.
 
Discussion anD activity GuiDe
The Snake Scientist 
By Sy Montgomery Photographs by Nic Bishop
Houghton Miin Harcourt Books or Young ReadersVisit www.sciencemeetsadventure.com or authors’ Adventure Notes, teacher resources, videos, and more!
•
 Does the number o snakes and the number o dens sug-gest other ways to prove that snakes return to the sameden? I so, share with the class the mathematical datathat suggests a proo.
•
 Bob Mason discovered that these snakes live about nineyears and travel about twenty miles. How do these num-bers actor into the mathematical proo above? Discussways in which Bob could determine how ar a snaketravels and how long this species lives (on average).
Common Core ConnectionsCCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence rom inormation-al texts to support analysis reection, and research.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.1b Support claim(s) with logical rea-soning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstratean understanding o the topic or text, using credible sources.
Bob Mason tested hundreds o chemicals beore he oundthe pheromone, the “snake juice” that allows snakes toidentiy an individual snake. These pheromones, Masonpredicts, may also explain how these snakes navigate romthe marshes where they give birth and eed to the dens wherethey spend the winters.
•
 Collect a large set o objects that are all identical (orclose). Maybe it is a deck o cards (use only the backo the cards). Take about a tenth (or less) o the objectsand mark them with a scent (almond extract, pepper-mint, etc.). Now place these scented items in a zigzagpath rom point A to point B. Use the non-scented itemsto make ollowing the path visually conusing and asclose to impossible as easible. Have students attemptto navigate the correct path without touching the cardsand using just the odor o the scent-marked items. Youmay want to assign coordinates to all the cards andhave students record the correct sequence o the scentedobjects rom the two reerence points. You will want justenough scent-tagged items to allow students to fnd andollow the path, but not so many that there is no chal-lenge to fnding the correct object.
•
 In order to successully mate, the male has to fnd whicho the virtually identical-looking snakes is the emale.This is accomplished by fnding the correct pheromone.Pheromones are a chemical trace that animals sense inways humans might describe as tasting. Assuming thereare no ood allergies among students, have one studenttaste something like a peanut butter cracker or a smallpiece o mint chocolate without telling anyone what heor she tried. Have the rest o the class taste a similar-looking snack without revealing what was tried. Eithermake all the snacks look identical or blindold studentstasting them. On this plate o snacks, provide just oneor two samples that are the same as the peanut buttercracker or mint chocolate described above. Ater eachstudent tries a snack, the chosen person tries to fnd thematch by asking each student what he or she tasted. Thisactivity can be done as a race (or un) or to just demon-strate (along with the last activity) that pheromones aremore than just an odor.Reptiles are cold blooded, which means they take theirinternal temperature rom the environment. Mason suspectsthat even though his park has created tunnels beneath theroad or the snakes, they still chose the highway because thewarm asphalt eels better to the snake.Repeat the path game above, but this time use objects thatare warmer and colder. And this time keep the objects closeenough together that a blindolded student could ollow thewarmest path with his or her hand. The goal in this activityis to veer the student (snake) around the danger area (thehighway).
Common Core ConnectionsRST.6-8.3. Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carryingout experiments, taking measurements, or perorming technicaltasks.W.6.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question, draw-ing on several sources and reocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
Michael, one o the researchers, believes these snakes pro-vide a good model or understanding animal migration ingeneral.
•
 Compare the snake migration described in this bookwith animal migration o at least two dierent species.Make charts or presentations showing how they com-pare and contrast.

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