Enjoy a ssssensational selection of more than 16 snake-themed activities designed to delight reptile-lovers ages 8-11!
Scary? Nope, just scaly. Wrap yourself around the fascinating world of snakes with four days of activities for young herpetologists-in-training, including guided videos, crafts, interactive programs, and resources.
(Note: While Science @ Home activities are designed to be conducted by kids, some little ones might need adult help with reading instructions and preparing crafts).
Day 1: Snake bodies
While more than 3,000 different snake species slither around the world, they all have a few things in common. Today you’ll learn about some of a snake’s defining features. (90 minutes)
Join Academy educators Laura and Josh for a fascinating encounter with two live snakes! Learn about the unique physical and behavioral adaptations that enable these beautiful species to survive and thrive.
Like humans, snakes are vertebrates, and underneath their spine and ribcage, we share many of the same organs. But how does everything fit within a snake’s tube-like body? Color a snake’s organs and learn what’s similar to, and different from, your own insides.
Ancestors of modern snakes had arms and legs, and those with smaller limbs could more easily reach prey living underground. Today, snakes have evolved to be limbless, and use their scales and muscles to get around. Create your own slithering paper snake and see how it moves.
Day 2: Snake adaptations
From camouflaging in the rainforest to moving swiftly across hot sand, snakes rely on adaptations to be successful in a variety of challenging habitats. (45-60 minutes)
How does a snake move without any limbs? With their muscles and their scales! Different snakes have also adapted to climb trees, burrow in leaf litter, fling themselves across sand dunes, and even swim. In this activity, you'll move your body to learn more about how different types of snakes move, hunt, and protect their young.
Learn how a predator-prey duo keeps evolving their venom and their poison—one to catch dinner, the other to avoid being dinner!
Snakes are entirely covered in scales that protect their skin. These little shields come in distinctive colors and patterns that can be simple or complex. They can be earthy colors that help a snake blend in (camouflage), or bright colors that stand out, warning predators of their protective venom. Each snake’s pattern helps it survive and thrive on our shared planet. In this activity, you'll design and draw your very own snake pattern.
Day 3: Snake snacks
As predators, snakes occupy an important place in the food chain by helping keep prey populations in balance. Sniff around the following four activities to learn how snakes find and eat their food.
Snakes have different ways of catching their dinner depending on their species. Can you guess what they are? Academy volunteer Terry shares some interesting examples of how snakes catch their prey.
One incredible snake adaptation is their ability to eat prey much larger than their own bodies. Join Academy volunteer Anne to find out how these long, thin reptiles with small heads can eat much larger animals to survive.
This specimen is the skull of a green anaconda, part of the Academy’s natural history collection. Take a close look at the skull—you can move it, spin it, and zoom in.
Explore and investigate as you think about the four questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.
- What do you notice about the skull? Does it remind you of anything?
- Do you see which direction the teeth are pointing? Why do you think the teeth point toward the back of the anaconda’s mouth?
- What could the different holes and openings in the skull be for?
- What else can you guess about this animal just by looking at its skull?
Day 4: Herpetologist how-to
See how we take care of the live snakes at the Academy, explore our research collection, and discover how you can be a herpetologist in your own community.
What does it take to care for a 15-foot-long anaconda? Watch Academy animal care staff work their magic to keep our snakes healthy.
Humans have 33 vertebrae, but snakes have more than 100—and some even have more than 300! Having so many vertebrae helps snakes be very flexible. Flexibility is an important adaptation for snakes whether they need to slither through underground burrows, navigate through tree branches, or sidewind their way across hot desert sand. In this craft you will make your own flexible, spiraling paper snake.
Scientific collections help us understand the natural world and our role within it. Join Academy herpetologists to learn about reptiles and a few of the 46 million specimens found in the Academy’s scientific collection.
Are you ready to take your herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) know-how on the road? Outdoor observation is a great way to learn about snakes and their habitats. These tips will help you learn about snakes safely and be a good neighbor to them out in the field.
Kid and caregiver extension activities
Still curious about snakes? Calculate how many erasers long a python is, learn about what snake scientists are studying, and contribute to ongoing research.
If a snake were measured in erasers or pencils or cheese sticks, how long would it be? Put your math skills to the test as you convert the length of a python from feet into household items.
Join Academy veterinarian Dr. Freeland Dunker and Academy virologist Dr. Shannon Bennett as they seek to learn more about a mysterious disease afflicting snakes—and how it can help us study viruses that afflict humans.
While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.
- What is the difference between a viral and bacterial infection?
- Why is it important to look at healthy snakes when studying sick snakes?
- Why is it useful for humans to study diseases that only impact animals?
Want to take part in ongoing research? As a community scientist, you can use iNaturalist to help researchers gather information about snakes in your area. Download the app or log into the website to begin exploring, or check out current projects and contribute observations of your own. Caregivers can view this how-to video for using the iNaturalist app with children.