Armadillos, bearded dragons and two-toed sloths roamed the school gym as students’ faces radiated with surprise.

Members of the Barn Hill Wildlife Preserve Animal Adventure Squad drove from Louisiana to provide Copperas Cove Junior High School students with an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their animal ambassadors.

Barn Hill Preserve’s exotic animal education program offers students the unique experience of meeting and learning about wild animals as well as encouraging student participation.

Student volunteers were involved in demonstrations with the animals. The eager learners asked and responded to questions while immersing themselves in learning about the exotic wildlife.

The program presented students the opportunity to see animals they may have only seen in zoos and provided information about each animal’s lifespan, living environment and diet along with other interesting facts.

Teacher Sean Royal and his class listened intently while adventure squad members walked the exotic animals around the school gym and told the students what the animals eat, where they originate, and how big they can grow.

“I thought the presentation was very interesting and it gave many students an opportunity to see animals that they would normally never have had the opportunity to see in person,” Royal said. “It also taught fun little facts about those animals, such as the fact that the armadillos we have in Texas carry leprosy.”

With Godzilla, the bearded dragon; Puffles, the armadillo; Grace, the two-toed sloth; and a few other slithery animal friends, the presentation was not short on unique animal guests.

CCJHS students Jacob Hurley and Reggi Portalatin waited in long lines to see the animals up close and take pictures with them.

“The last time they had something with animals they didn’t show us the animals up close like they did this time,” Hurley said.

Students could choose from a photo with a variety of exotic animals and could be overheard saying how much they enjoyed learning about the animals.

“I liked it this time because we got to take pictures with the animals and really got to see them up close and learn about them,” Portalatin said. “My favorite animal is the sloth.”

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