Summer reading program ends with a hiss

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Michael Clough from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum shows kids a turtle during the “Turtles to Toads” program at the RCS Community Library. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — Kids piled into the RCS Community Library last week to get up close and personal with a snake.

A snake, a turtle, a frog and a toad, to be precise.

The library’s Summer Reading Program celebrated its conclusion Thursday with “Turtles to Toads,” a program teaching them about reptiles and amphibians that are native to New York state.

Mona Visconti, 2, showed up at the event early to get a closer look at the snake. She was able to touch real turtle shells and a discarded snakeskin.

“She is very excited to be here,” Mona’s grandmother, Patricia Visconti, said before the program began. “We were talking about the snakes all this afternoon and she is very anxious to touch the snake. Whether she will or not, who knows?”

Mona Visconti, 2, checks out the animal exhibits before the start of the program. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Liam Rappleyea, 8, also looked forward to seeing the slithery reptile.

“I like seeing the snakes,” Liam said as he tried to peer into the snake’s carrier case. “It’s interesting how they can slither.”

Liam Rappleyea, 8, holds up a real discarded snakeskin prior to the program’s start. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Michael Clough, managing director of the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, brought the reptiles and amphibians to the library to teach the kids about interesting animals they can find right in their own community.

“Today we are doing our presentation ‘Turtles to Toads,’ which is an introduction to some of the local reptiles and amphibians,” Clough said. “We have some live animals with us. All the live animals we have at the museum, including these reptiles and amphibians, we have them all for a reason — we didn’t go to a pet store and buy them. They are illegal pets — they have been seized by Fish and Wildlife in the case of Vermont, and we do have some the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) seized animals in the collection. Some are handicapped and rescued.”

The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, located in West Marlboro, Vermont, displays live animal exhibits, ecology, geology and natural history exhibits, according to the museum’s website.

The museum aims to inspire stewardship and appreciation of the natural world through educational experiences and focuses on wildlife that is native to the local area.

Kids got up close and personal with live reptiles and amphibians during the RCS Community Library’s “Turtles to Toads” program Thursday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

“We are a natural history museum for the most part — it’s a collection of native birds and mammals,” Clough told the kids as he opened the program. “We have about 250 species in the collection so if you want to see native taxidermy, we have more than the museum in Albany has, for things you will see here in the Northeast.”

And while nature shows on television may focus on animals like lions and elephants from far-flung locales, the museum looks at species you can find right in your own backyard.

“It’s interesting and cool to learn about those animals, but I always worry that we are going to start thinking there is nothing cool here,” Clough said. “But there is, there really is.”

For instance, he pointed to some of the unique animals that live in the Northeast region.

“Do you know the fastest animal on the whole planet lives here in New York state?” Clough asked. “It’s the peregrine falcon. Yes, the cheetah is the fastest runner — they top out at about 70 mph. Last year, the peregrine falcon broke its own speed record — the new record is 242 miles an hour. You want to see one of those? Go outside and look up. There may be one flying over right now — the fastest animal on the planet.”

The peregrine falcon isn’t the only unique animal in New York state.

“The largest deer in the world lives in New York,” Clough said. “We don’t usually call them deer, but they are part of the deer family. In Europe they call them elk, we call them moose. The biggest deer in the world, and it lives right here in New York. And that’s just getting started.”

The kids oohed and aahed at the live animals Clough took out of their carriers.

Finn Blair, 2, couldn’t wait to touch a turtle shell during the library’s conclusion to the Summer Reading Program. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Interim Library Director Barbara Goetschius said this year’s Summer Reading Program drew a sizable crowd, along with the opening event — a magic show in Mosher Park — and then last week’s concluding program held indoors at the library due to rain.

“We had close to 100 kids in the reading program, plus we had kids from the Discovery Camp at Pieter B. [Coeymans Elementary School] that came with their classes to visit,” Goetschius said. “They weren’t part of the official Summer Reading Program, but that was a large influx of kids getting library cards and books this summer.”

The “Turtles to Toads” program was a big hit, Goetschius said.

“This is at least the second time that we have had this program and the kids love it,” she said. “They did raptors the last time. It’s just a great program.”

Kids pet a turtle during the program at the RCS Community Library. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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