Joe Brocksmith Enhances Class with Pets

By Kelsey Decker, Madison Tanksley, Candace Siem

Environmental science teacher, Joe Brocksmith has a unique collection of reptiles to enhance the learning experience in his classroom. Brocksmith has had the pets in his room for as long as he can remember and quickly found the many long lasting impacts they had on his students.

“I think the pets benefit the class by providing real life examples,” Brocksmith said. “I hope that the animals provide a chance for students to observe real animals and their behaviors.”

Though the pets aren’t usually incorporated with the teaching until second semester, Brocksmith still finds a way to bring something unique to the classroom. He has acquired his pets from a little bit of everywhere and got lucky with some of the places he found these creatures.

“Most of the pets came from local reptile shows, but I got lucky when finding a snake from Craigslist,” Brocksmith said.

With a total of 12 reptiles, Brocksmith has five turtles and seven snakes. Brocksmith’s variety includes two Grey Banded King snakes, a California Kin, and Red Milk snake. In addition, he has two Yellow Belly turtles, a Florida Red Belly, Florida Softshell, and Peninsula Cooter turtle.

“Students are allowed to handle the reptiles; with permission, some snakes bite,” Brocksmith said. “I’ve probably been bit more than 50 times, but only about three or four by the ones here in the class.”

Brocksmith feeds and holds the snakes and turtles a couple of times a week. He usually does a variety of things to keep the animals healthy and happy such as cleaning their habitats. The turtle’s diet contains: generic turtle food, fruit and veggies, while the snakes only eat mice.

“Generally I find that the students are interested, curious, and/or want to hold the animals,” Brocksmith said. “I think my best memory with the pets would be when I breed the snakes for the first time and the little eggs started hatching.”