Originally Published: July 22, 2007 8:08 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Nina Bricko toted a gopher snake on her arm as she calmly and coolly permitted a group of awestruck children to take turns stroking the non-venomous reptile's leathery scales.
It was all in a day's work for Bricko, the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary's education coordinator, who conducted an enlightening presentation on reptiles dubbed Scales and Nails for a host of youngsters, parents and grandparents Saturday at the Prescott Public Library.
Bricko brought five different kinds of reptiles in enclosed compartments with her to the library's youth area for the hour-long gathering, revealing each of the animals' intricacies with about 50 audience members.
She gracefully pulled out the gopher snake from her first container and shared it with the crowd before returning it to the enclosed unit. Bricko then unveiled in succession a mountain king snake, a blue-tongued skink (lizard), a prehensile-tailed skink, and a pair of desert tortoises.
Bricko divulged interesting facts about each animal to
the children and asked them simple questions about their knowledge on reptiles.
Toward the end of the presentation, Bricko gave a quick oral pop quiz to the children, asking them four simple questions.
Afterward, 11-year-old Sam McGrath said he enjoyed the event because it gave him the chance to touch reptiles and learn the intriguing hidden physical differences among them.
"I didn't know that the chins of a snake are just a muscle, it's not bone," McGrath said.
Amadee Ricketts, a children's librarian who just started working for the Prescott Public Library's Youth Services Department within the past two months, helped organize Saturday's event with Bricko.
"This was a really neat program, and the kids were so excited to meet the animals," Ricketts said.
Saturday's presentation was only one of many Bricko conducts in this area. She performs education and outreach programs for grade schools across the tri-city area and also arranges for groups to attend special events at the zoo, 1403 Heritage Park Road. In addition to Scales and Nails, the sanctuary has offered
programs such as Predators in the Sky, where it showcases predatory birds.
"The sanctuary has been doing outreach programs for a number of years, but just within the last year we started a lot of really cool themed programs like Scales and Nails," Bricko said. "We'll definitely be having new themes and new programs all the time."
Throughout the summer months, the Prescott library has sponsored free special events almost every week as part of its Summer Reading Program for children. In past weeks, the library brought in a magician and a so-called "mad scientist."
The library will play host to a grand finale party for its reading program at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. All children are welcome, whether or not they were involved in the program.
"There will be music, snacks and door prizes," Ricketts said.
For more information about the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary's education programs or how to become a volunteer for them, log on to the Internet at www.heritageparkzoo.org and visit the education section. Bricko said she's now looking for volunteers to assist with the zoo's tours and programs.