Sierra Moen's young face
reflected both fear and amazement as she gazed eye
to eye at a slowly coiling python.
Following a pause that
seemed to last forever, the 7-year-old girl tugged
at her mother's leg. Crouching to her daughter's height,
Sharon Moen listened as Sierra sheepishly whispered
her innermost thought.
"She thinks it's disgusting,''
Sharon revealed, surprised and amused by her daughter's
After all, this snake
isn't just any reptile. The 20-month-old African rock
python was Sunday's star attraction at the Great Lakes
Aquarium. The GLA hosted a kid-focused program Sunday
called Odyssey in Learning. The monthly program, for
youngsters ages 3 and older, simplifies information
into terms children can understand.
"In Africa, snakes symbolize
fertility and good luck,'' aquarium volunteer Richard
Block explained to inquisitive children at the "Lake
Victoria for Kids'' presentation. "Africans are very
respectful of snakes, kind of like we are with eagles.''
The complicated ecological
differences between Lake Victoria and Lake Superior
are the stuff that scientific conferences are made
of. And that's what the youngsters learned Sunday.
Like a children's petting
zoo, the Odyssey program brings children into direct
contact with exotic wildlife, enhancing their educational
experience, GLA educator Andrew Webster said Sunday
"They can really relate
when they get up close to an actual living thing,''
At the Lake Victoria
exhibit, snakes are most popular with preschoolers;
older kids favor crocodiles.
"I was afraid there wouldn't
be anything for little kids to do, but this is real
informative,'' said former Duluthian Pat Leonard as
his 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, examined an African
Tastes varied by children.
Five-year-old Adam Burklund professed a liking for
crocodiles, but cringed when his father, Jack, draped
a wolf pelt across his shoulders.
"I don't like it,'' the
In addition to wildlife
presentations, Odyssey features art programs, which
allow children to exchange animal pictures with peers
from other nations, and puppet shows, in which kids
can talk to the animals.
"I can get as big as
a bus -- 32 feet long,'' they were told at a show
featuring Polly Python, the alter ego of GLA's real
"I eat things as big
as chickens,'' a puppet African bullfrog bragged as
Sunday's visitors included
many people who hold family memberships.
"I love this place,''
charter member Sue Kamper said as she helped her son,
Dave, complete a drawing. "It's fun to come here and
stay an hour or two, especially when there are new