Suzanne Blakeman's classroom is full of the kind of stuff kids like: a turtle, a Cuban tree frog and hermit crabs.
Those are the live creatures. A hamster and a mole are preserved in jars. There are other things, too: wren eggs, an ostrich egg, nests, feathers, skulls, a horseshoe crab shell and a rattlesnake skin.
Blakeman, 57, is a science resource teacher at Brooksville Elementary School who sees students from kindergarten through fourth grade on a revolving schedule. "They get science in the classroom," Blakeman said. "This is mostly hands on."
The walls are covered with posters of arachnids, shells, insect parts, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Shelves hold leaves, cotton bolls, snakeskins and dried frogs. A labeled blow-up dragonfly is suspended from the ceiling.
The students have favorite things. Third-grader Joey Behlen, 8, likes the cow skull "because it's really big."
Third-grader Jeremy Knight, 8, has a different favorite. "I think the hornet's nest. I think it's cool because hornets do a lot of work in there."
Third-grader Keyanna Bryant, 8, likes the hermit crabs "because they crawl around."
Blakeman explained how she conducts her class. "I just teach concepts, try to address common misconceptions, and I have the luxury of teaching the old-fashioned way." She grabs teachable moments, like spotting a Monarch butterfly outside or discussing something a child brings in.
"All the time I'm trying to relate to what scientists do," she said. She points out that there are plenty of careers in science. "I'm recruiting."
That may be sinking in with some students. Third-grader Trysta Ford, 9, said she would like to be a veterinarian, "a horse doctor."
Keyanna would, too. She called the job a "horse scientist."
Joey said he is looking to be "an animal scientist."
Blakeman sees science as beneficial to students no matter what they do. "Science is life," she said. "An understanding of science makes a person a better citizen. They're going to be able to understand issues," like climate, evolution, pollution and health.
"They can understand them better if they're educated. I try to stress evidence. By the time the kids are in fourth grade, they're starting to get what I'm saying."