Reptile advocate teaches safety, facts

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By KAROLYN GEPHART

Ruby Lewis is an advocate for all reptiles and her work in educational outreach is both amazing and growing. She is a favorite summer program speaker for Brazoria County libraries as well as camps, Girl and Boy Scout programs and field trips to animal refuges during the school year.

A retired elementary teacher, Lewis had planned to one day become a Master Naturalist. It was her daughter, Layna Lewis, the Angleton Library’s branch manager, who provided the push she needed to do it.

It was the same daughter who works for the Brazoria Library System to persuade her mom to put together a reptile presentation. This is now years ago and many, many presentations later.

“I love being outdoors, love nature and love working with children so it is the most fun and rewarding experience I have ever had,” Lewis said.

As a teacher she would do a reptile until for second and third graders but it wasn’t pictures and worksheets of the reptiles. She brought real ones to class.

It is part of her outreach to teach safety to children as well as to educate them that reptiles such as snakes, alligators and turtles can be interesting and not scary.

“If I can teach them that seeing snakes does not mean killing them and wild animals are not pets but share the earth with us and they too have their place in the environment then I have done my job,” Lewis said. “I teach them what to do if they see a snake, an alligator, a turtle trying to get to another side of the road. For many kids, it is the first time they get to touch one of these animals and see them up close. Their faces are all the feedback I need to know they are learning.”

Lewis also teaches Sea and Shore involving sea animals and conservation.

Another new and popular program is Wild in the City. This program teaches kids that even if they live in the city there are wild animals all around them.

To get ready for the programs with children, it is not just putting some animals in the car and heading out. Lewis gets up at 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. presentation to bathe the reptiles that will be attending. This involves putting an alligator and turtles separately in the bath tub and bathing them with Dove Moisturizing Shampoo. Since many reptiles can carry salmonella, she wants to make sure they are all clean and ready for their shows.

Her program is aimed at fourth/fifth graders but people from babies to grandparents attend, ask questions and applaud Ruby and her Reptiles.

“We had a total of 79 kids at both programs (at Manvel Library recently). The kids were amazed when they could actually hold the reptiles. They were inspecting alligator toenails and webbed feet. They were very attentive for her presentation and eager to answer her questions,” Kathie Mattes at Manvel Library said.

Lewis is a 2005 graduate in the Master Naturalist Program Cradle of Texas Chapter in Angleton. Several Master Naturalists assist her in the presentations. She is helped with reptiles by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuges.

She is a favorite presenter in Manvel, Alvin and Pearland libraries.

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