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Cold Blooded Characters (JHARVNC)

TopicWildlife - Reptiles
Participants will learn characteristics of reptiles and specific characteristics of a box turtle and/or a snake. Usually a live specimen is shown. Habitat, physical characteristics, diet and other topics are discussed.
Recommended SettingClassroom, seated on floor
LocationJanet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith

Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993

Duration30-45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants25-30 per group
  • Understand the basic characteristics of reptiles
  • Identify the differences between reptiles and mammals
  • Explain how reptiles are adapted to their environment
Key Terms*Cold blooded
MaterialsLive specimen (turtle and/or snake) or a display
BackgroundReptiles are different from other organisms because they have scales, lay eggs, and are cold blooded. Common reptiles of Arkansas include turtles, snakes, and lizards.
  1. Reptile description
    • Physical Characteristics
    • Example
    • Habitats and Survival Needs
  2. Local box turtle
    • Nostrils
    • Eyelids
    • Ears
    • Tongue
    • Tail
    • Shell
    • Morphology - differences in sexes
      • Male
      • Female
    • Detecting and consuming prey
      • Nocturnal vs. diurnal
      • Live or dead prey
      • Specialization of prey
    • Growth or molting
  1. Seat participants on the floor and, instruct them to be still and quiet if live specimens will be shown. Ensure there is enough space for the speaker to walk between participants to show specimens.
  2. Introduce characteristics and natural history of reptiles. Show the specimens and discuss how they exhibit the general characteristics of reptiles. 
  3. Allow participants to get close to the specimens and touch them if they choose.
  4. If time permits, and if live specimens are used, discuss venomous and non venomous differences.
  5. Review general characteristics of reptiles and their importance to the ecosystem.
  • If there is time, discuss characteristics of venomous and non venomous snakes. Give participants time to look around the classroom at at different snakes and decide if they are venomous or non venomous, based on given characteristics. Gather particpants, and discuss each specimen.
  • With younger groups (grades K-1st grade), focus on box turtles by reading a story about a box turtle and showing a live specimen.
  • Reptiles are ideally suited for a variety of habitats. Give some examples of different habitats and how species have adapted to it.
  • Most reptiles lay eggs.  Did you know there is a few that give “live birth?” Research which species do this.
  • How do reptiles and snakes specifically fill an important niche in an ecosystem? 
  • Why do some people have the view that “the only good snake is a dead snake?”  Why is this a bad point of view?  How might you try to persuade someone with this view to see the value of snakes?
Cold blooded (ectothermic) – relating to an organism that regulates its body temperature by exchanging heat with its surroundings

Reptile – any cold-blooded, egg-laying, air-breathing vertebrate of the class Reptilia, including turtles, snakes, lizards, crocodilians, amphibians, tuatara and various extinct members including the dinosaurs

Scale – one of the thin, flat, horny plates that cover certain animals such as snakes, lizards and pangolins; or one of the hard, bony plates covering certain other animals such as fishes

Snakes – Any of numerous scaly, limbless reptiles of the suborder Serpentes or Ophidia (order Squamata), having a long, tapering, cylindrical body and salivary glands that often produce venom which is injected through grooved or tubular fangs

Turtles – aquatic or terrestrial reptiles of the order Testudines (or Chelonia), having horny, toothless jaws and a bony or leathery shell into which the head, limbs and tail can be withdrawn

Venomous – able to inflict a poisoned bite, sting or wound