JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of students from Pascagoula and Gautier enjoyed their first close encounter with wildlife Friday. They came face to face with live snakes. Many bravely allowed the reptiles to slither up their arms.
"I thought it was actually pretty cool. A lot of people think snakes are slimy, disgusting creatures, but I'm fascinated by them," said sixth grader Tony Arnold.
Under a nearby tent, the students got to touch and hold animal skulls and fossils. Then, they took a leisurely kayak ride around a pond.
"I was kind of scared, 'cause, I don't like swimming," said sixth grader Parker Fairley.
About 600 sixth graders from three schools gathered on the grounds of Gautier High to soak up the interactive outdoor experience.
"They're at a great time in their lives. They're starting to learn about biology and nature. It's a great opportunity to expose them to this theme "My Two Boots: A Walk in the Wetlands." What are wetlands? They're everywhere around us," said Dr. Mark LaSalle, Pascagoula River Audubon Center director.
Each hands-on activity introduced the students to native plants and wildlife. Plus, the games they played, like the Turtle Hurdle, opened their eyes to the need to protect those fragile creatures.
"I learned there are many sea turtles that we need to save," said sixth grader Kaitlyn Wilson.
"Just from the people coming and talking to us and telling us the dangers of what we, the human race, can do to the environment, and how we need the environment to keep us alive," said Tony.
This was the 16th year for the Walk in the Wetlands program. Students from Singing River Academy also included artwork and storytelling. Trent Lott Academy and Resurrection Catholic School participated in the event.