For most people, the sight of a slithering snake can be a frightening experience. But for Drew Goldsberry and Helena Sacchi, snakes and reptiles provide an opportunity to dive into a great project-based learning experience.
After getting a snake at the age of 15, Drew found his love and passion for herpetology. “I was so surprised my mom let me have it,” states Drew.
For Helena Sacchi, it wasn’t the most natural thing to get into, but when Drew asked her if she wanted to get involved, Helena refused to be defeated by her phobia. “I ended up conquering that fear and taking it 100 steps further by getting really into the science and responsibility of taking care of the snakes and reptiles,” said Helena.
A class in Herpetology is not on the regular roster of courses offered at Wasatch Academy. After witnessing the students’ interest, passion, and curiosity in the herpetology sciences, Dr. David Roth, a biology teacher, suggested the students create an independent study course. The students proposed and designed the class with Dr. Roth’s assistance.
Since creating the course, Helena and Drew have designed and built three glass terrariums, requiring more than 20 hours of work each, with
materials that were bought specifically for this project. They selected the female and male snakes- looking for a specific genetic
and breeding attributes- with the goal of developing a program from which other students can benefit.
The students hope to have the opportunity to breed the snakes and see what genetic mix comes from crossing a Banana Ball Python and a Mojave Ball Python.
Drew hopes to continue his passion after graduating Wasatch Academy this year by starting a business breeding endangered species. “I really connect with the animals themselves and love them. I just want people to have the opportunity to experience and love them as I do,” said Drew. For Helena, the experience was really about owning her learning.
Dr. Roth says he has found great satisfaction in being a part of students thinking and acting like scientists. “I know that this class and project has inspired these two students to think independently and scientifically. They have had plenty of chances for troubleshooting, problem-solving, critical thinking, and being responsible for live animals, as well as owning their learning and education as young adults and blossoming scientists.”
Helena and Drew suggest to fellow students interested in learning more about herpetology to not buy into the idea that snakes and reptiles are scary.
If you are a Wasatch Academy student and are interested in taking this class, contact Helena, Drew, or Dr. Roth to learn how you can get involved.