1. Education

Hernando Christian Academy kindergarteners get hands-on lesson on reptiles, shell fish and more

Hernando Christian Academy kindergarteners Mark Sanchez, 6, center and Chloe Lieblen, 6, reach in to touch the ball python held by Tracy Ervin of J&T Reptiles and Exotics, which also brought an emperor scorpion, along with snake skins.
Hernando Christian Academy kindergarteners Mark Sanchez, 6, center and Chloe Lieblen, 6, reach in to touch the ball python held by Tracy Ervin of J&T Reptiles and Exotics, which also brought an emperor scorpion, along with snake skins.
Published May 2, 2012


The children petted a python, marveled at a giant scorpion, raked through sand for shells and examined fish during the culminating activity in a marine science unit in Nadine Sioma's kindergarten class at Hernando Christian Academy.

"We're doing a unit on the ocean, and we're doing animals and reptiles," Sioma said. "I couldn't take them to the gulf, so I brought the gulf to them."

She said she caught some of the specimens herself.

"Publix gave me a few things, and some of the parents brought things, but I caught the shark myself," she said of the small blacktip.

To add to her collection, Sioma invited John Anderson and Tracy Ervin, owners of J&T Reptiles and Exotics to HCA. They brought the snakes and the emperor scorpion, along with some snake skins, which they passed around. They had a gray-banded king snake, a Taiwan beauty rat snake and a ball python.

Sioma instructed her children at a long table set up outside her classroom. The fish, shells, a crab, king crab legs and a sea star were identified, and the children were allowed to examine them.

"We're teaching some conservation, and I'm trying to teach positives about sharks," Sioma said.

She wants the children to become aware at an early age not to abuse nature and natural resources.

"We have such wonderful natural resources here," she said.

She had also set up three pools. Two were filled with water and one with sand. One watery pool had shells, sponges, coral, sea stars and a seahorse for the children to touch. The other had shells and plastic marine toys, and the students were invited to scoop them up with nets. The pool with the sand had shells in it, and the children played with shovels and claws.

At the netting pool, a couple of children had filled a pail with plastic critters, causing others to complain that there was little left to scoop. Sioma took the opportunity to reinforce a lesson: "Catch and release," she said.

The children seemed to enjoy the outdoor activities.

Levi Scozzafava, 6, was most impressed with the python. His little brother, Trevan, 4, who had come for the afternoon to see the special lesson, preferred the scorpion.

"I like to see them," he said.

Mackenzie Harvey, 6, liked the shark.

"Because it looked beautiful," she said.

Her favorite snake was "Charlie," the rat snake, "because it's big."

And some of the children learned a few things.

"I learned that some of the snakes tied their prey, and once it's dead they eat it," said Chloe Liebler, 6.

Mark Sanchez, 6, found out something else.

"Snakes roll up in a ball and they get really scared and they roll up in a ball," he said.

The class finished the marine unit with a trip to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.


  1. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  2. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
  3. Children participate in a sorting exercise during activities in a pre-K  class in Tampa.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. A photo of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sits on a pedestal at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020  in St. Petersburg. Guests enjoyed music, spoken word, dance and musical performances and concluded with a candle light vigil and song.  [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. From left, Don Haddad, Peter Licata and Addison Davis, all finalists for the job of Hillsborough County school superintendent, met Thursday with community members at Rampello K-8 School. The School Board will choose among the three on Tuesday. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
    Addison Davis, Don Haddad and Peter Licata outline their plans for the first 90 days.
  6. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    A man university police believe was target shooting near campus was not located, the university said.
  7. Former state senator John Legg has not ruled out a run for Pasco County schools superintendent. The district is the nation's largest to elect its chief executive.
    Short answer: Maybe.
  8. But the competition isn’t who many people expected it to be.
  9. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. A point tally ranking the three finalists to be Hillsborough County's next school superintendent shows up on a screen in the School Board meeting room Thursday after a meeting that lasted most of the day. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
    The last round of interviews is set for Jan. 21.