Discussion anD activity GuiDe
The Snake Scientist
By Sy Montgomery Photographs by Nic Bishop
Houghton Miin 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.
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 thisun 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.
When a community decides to build a neighborhood outo ormerly wild lands, what (i any) concessions shouldbe given to the plant and animal lie that preceded the newhousing development? Does it make any dierence 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 comortable with creatures that rightenus? How much have our own cultural customs and attitudestoward snakes inuenced 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 oten 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 successul 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 Wildlie 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 lie. Make sure toconsider water sources, ood sources, and protectionrom predators.
Ater students have ormed an independent predictionor how young snakes spend their frst years o lie, 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 methodsor testing the group prediction. Keep in mind this quoterom 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 ateryear. 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.”
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.