Students in Megan Reilly's 3rd grade class found a surprising visitor in their classroom on Tuesday, April 25.
The students discovered that a boa constrictor had snuck into the school and was coiled into a ball in the back of the classroom. The class is accustomed to seeing a snake in their classroom since the class pet, Cuddles, is also a boa. But the students and Ms. Reilly quickly realized that the snake in the corner was not their beloved classroom pet, but instead a snake that looked nearly identical to Cuddles. Riverside Elementary science teacher Mark Eastburn suspects that Cuddlesí scent drew the male snake, which the students named Zeus, to Ms. Reillyís classroom.
“My students were all very excited that we had a visitor seeking friendship in Cuddles,” said Ms. Reilly. “They were all asking if I could keep the snake so that Cuddles would not be lonely anymore. They also suggested that Cuddles and Zeus should get married, which was very cute.”
Zeus appeared to have been a pet, probably from a nearby neighborhood, and was not in ideal health when he was found. Riverside custodian Ryan Weigand removed Zeus from Ms. Reilly's classroom and placed hum safely into a container in Mr. Eastburnís science classroom. Ms. Reilly used Zeus' visit as a learning opportunity for her students, asking them to write a fictional story ñ from the snakeís perspective ñ about his adventures and how he ended up in their classroom.
The students were full of ideas, speculating that perhaps he got on a plane and flew to New Jersey or that he came to Riverside Elementary looking for his “sister,” Cuddles. One student imagined that an ugly princess was going to give Zeus as a gift to a king, but he escaped and slithered all the way to Trenton, where he smelled a mate - Cuddles.
“This has been a joyous story for us,” said Valerie Ulrich, the principal at Riverside Elementary. “Our discovery saved the snakeís life.”
Princeton's Department of Animal Control picked up Zeus from Riverside Elementary on Wednesday morning and will be working with Scales and Tails Exotic Pet Rescue in Randolph, New Jersey, to find a new home for the snake. Even though he is no longer in their classroom, the students are still concerned about his safety. One student told Ms. Reilly that she should contact whoever adopts Zeus “so we can know for sure that theyíre gonna really take care of him.”
“In all my years in education, I have never before encountered this particular situation,” said Superintendent Steve Cochrane, adding that he was proud of the way the students handled the situation. “You might think that the students would be terrified by finding a snake in their classroom. Instead, a likely terrified snake was lucky enough to find a compassionate class of 3rd graders.”