ANIMAL ACTIVITY LICENCE: MALCOLM STUART WOOD (CBCAAL/062)
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Listed below are a few of the personal triumphs we have seen over the past months, not for us, but for those brave enough to face their fears & have a go.
Rarely were they 'willing volunteers' as you will read, but I hope you will be encouraged to realise that no matter how great our fears, if we are prepared to face them it is possible to do so much more than we originally thought possible.
"We've had ****** in several times and they were great. But you were better and seemed more interested in what the children wanted and how they felt. Thank you. Will be in touch again."
Science Teacher: Bushloe High School, Leicester
When we visited a school in North London, we were told (at the end of the day) about an 8-year-old girl in one of the classes who had been 'dreading' our visit. Two days before we arrived it was mentioned that 'snakes' were coming to the school & since that time she had experienced fainting, shortness of breath, palpitations & significant anxiety!
As we took classes through the day we noticed a few children who gradually changed from being afraid of the animals to having a go at touching or holding some of them. You can imagine our surprise when we learnt that this particular girl, after stroking a gecko, had gradually worked-up the courage to handle Wesley, our little Western Hognose Snake, after which there was no stopping her! It was pointed out that she was little girl who 'had not wanted to give Geoff, our boa constrictor back to us.' Apparently she was also interested in 'perhaps having a snake as a pet' (which would have been interesting to hear as her mother was more scared of snakes than her daughter!).
Teachers had taken photographs to show her mum as they knew she would not believe just word-of-mouth!
"I NEVER thought I could touch a snake, let alone hold it. Thank you for your patience. You don't realise how much of an achievement for me this is!"
Teacher in Staff Room; Bush Hill Primary School, Enfield, London
During the recent Loughborough Canal Festival I took Geoff, our boa, for a walk out to meet people. As we approached a pub there were several people sat at tables who called us across to have a look at Geoff. As they were getting acquainted with him, I noticed a lady, probably in her early 60's stop with a drink in each hand & turn pale. She was about 25 feet away. Obviously a friend of people who were already handling Geoff, she was clearly petrified, confessing to having a 'white knuckle fear' of snakes since she was around 6 years of age. She had no idea why.
Over the next 20 minutes as we continued to discuss Geoff & our other snakes, the lady gradually came closer & eventually said, "I'd really like to overcome this fear of snakes but I don't know whether I can!"
After facing her fears & taking the risk to touch Geoff, she slowly moved on to stroking him, eventually holding him on her own. After that, we were engaged in conversation about 'the best type of snake to have as a first pet!'
"The difference between Meet The Beasts & other companies we've had is that you bond immediately with the children, relate on their level, hold their interest & leave them buzzing with a sense of achievement. We will be asking you back."
Teacher; Broadfields Primary School, Edgware, London
During a stint at Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton during the Summer holidays, we ran a series of sessions where people could encounter our animals in the flesh, as part of the centre's 'Monster Creepy Crawlies' exhibition.
At the end of one of our sessions we were approached by a young mother who had 'always had a serious phobia about spiders' but who wanted to try & overcome it.
We used Samba, our Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula, who is very placid & tolerant & over the next 5 or 10 minutes we allowed the lady to pluck up enough courage to stroke the tarantula on her abdomen.
The look of triumph on the lady's face & the words, "Please can you take a photo for me; I would never have believed I could do this. Thank you!" said it all.
"I was the last lady to leave you on Halloween at Loughborough Great Central Railway Station…sorry, it was the last train & I had to go! Just wanted to say thank you properly for a wonderful experience – it completely made my night. I have kept your details in case I ever need something similar for work."
EH; Visitor to Great Central Railway's Halloween 'FrightNight' Event
We attended a birthday party at which one boy was adamant that he was afraid of everything we had & was NOT going to touch or hold anything!
For almost an hour we took lizards, snakes, millipedes & tarantulas around the party guests so that they could have a look, touch or hold the various animals as appropriate. Our little friend retreated on every animal.
The final animal was Geoff, our young Boa Constrictor & to my amazement the boy said simply, "I'll hold it!" which he proceeded to do; not just 'touch' him but 'hold' him. After that he held Geoff completely on his own without help from us.
"Wow! What a day. There have been some miracles today as the least likely children have run up & told me they've handled a snake. Great service with real sensitivity. We loved the way you worked at each individual child's pace. Thank you so much."
Teacher; Gateway Primary School, Westminster, London
We have a number of local schools that we visit on a regular cycle. One of these is a secondary school whose Science Department we have developed an excellent relationship.
We were running a science lesson for one particular class in which one of the girls, upon entering the laboratory, screamed when she saw the tanks (no animals were visible!). As I introduced what we were going to do, I noticed in the far corner of the laboratory, the lab coats hanging-up had grown a pair of legs! It was this girl who was clearly unnerved by our animals.
Over the next 20 minutes or so, we introduced some of our animals to the class & took them around for touching or holding. We noticed that the lab coats no longer had legs & that the girl in question was now sitting with her friends (at the back of the class). Within a short time (two animals-worth) she was ready to hold a snake; Wesley, our Western Hognose Snake.
After that she could not get enough handling experience & even took one of our snakes to her friends on the back table for them to have a 'special look at it'. By the time we reached our boas, she was handling them like a professional!
As she was leaving the class she said, "Thanks so much! I really enjoyed that! I never thought I'd be able to look at a snake, let alone handle one. I'm going to ask mum & dad if we can have a pet snake!"
"The students were left 'buzzing' and thoroughly enjoyed your sessions. Your enthusiasm and patience made the sessions even more enjoyable. Your range of reptiles made it very different to other sessions that are available and we appreciated the extras you did. We will be working with you again."
Science Teacher: Rushey Mead School, Leicester
Those of you who visit this site, or our Facebook Page regularly, will know that in October 2013 we attended a business event called LBE13. As part of the run-up to the actual event, there was a pre-exhibition meeting for exhibitors, where we could get together, meet other exhibitors, learn about the best way of using the day & introduce ourselves to our exhibitor colleagues.
As usual, I had a little surprise in the shape of Geoff our young Boa Constrictor. Matt & myself stood up, introduced ourselves & then introduced Geoff. A lady sat about 10 to 12 feet from us went pale, stood up & moved to the back of the room rather quickly!
At the end of the meeting we were stood talking to people & introducing ourselves (& Geoff) & the lady in question slowly approached us from various angles, watching Geoff's interactions with her friends & colleagues. Eventually she asked if she could touch Geoff which, after some time & effort, she managed to do. Over the next 10 or 15 minutes the lady came back several times to touch & stroke him.
On the day of the exhibition, she appeared again to stroke him & eventually plucked-up the courage to hold him. She spent the rest of the day publicising our stand for us (without being asked!) through telling exhibitors & delegates of her elation at being able to conquer her phobia. She's still not keen on all snakes, but she loves Geoff!
"Mummy! Mummy! I've held two snakes today"
Year 3 Girl Pupil; Broadfields Primary School, Edgware, London
Whilst running a science class at a local secondary school, we noticed that as we lifted Wesley, our Western Hognose & smallest snake out of his tank, one girl stood up & left the lab in tears.
Whilst we were taking our animals around the class, we noticed that she gradually came in from watching through the glass door from the outside to sitting at the edge of the laboratory. As we were taking Geoff, our young Boa Constrictor around, this same girl suddenly asked, "Please can I have a goat touching him?"
After a few tentative strokes she visibly relaxed & ended the session holding Geoff on her own: first touch to holding the snake took less than 5 minutes.
"We've had other groups doing similar things with our students before, but none of them engaged them like you did. Thank you and we'll definitely be in touch again in future!"
Teacher: Abington High School, Leicester
Whilst working with a primary class, we noticed a little boy retreat to sit with one of the teachers. He was clearly very afraid of our animals (& we'd only shown a couple of lizards!).
By the time we were taking the tarantulas around for the children to look at, he asked whether he could touch Samba, our Honduran Curly Hair. After a few 'ins & outs' with his hand he eventually gently stroked the tarantula on her abdomen. What was most rewarding is that on one occasion the tarantula started to walk, but he showed no fear or signs of jumping.
"You may not have realised it but we had 3 or 4 pupils with quite severe special needs in the group. I was amazed! They were still talking about your visit today and one girl took part who has never responded before. We had another group in earlier this week doing the same thing but the children were distracted and fidgety within 15 minutes. THANK YOU. I will be recommending Meet The Beasts to other teacher friends."
Year 1 Teacher: Shelton Infants School, Derby
One of our more challenging events was when we were invited to Cardiff, specifically with the objective of helping a man overcome his fear of snakes.
We arrived & were greeted by the man & a bunch of supporters (including his parents) who were there to help (but also to have a go themselves). Over the period of about an hour-and-a-half we introduced him to five of our snakes, starting with our smallest (Wesley, the Western Hognose Snake) & working up to our larger boas.
Our big reward was that not only was the man himself confidently holding the snakes by the end of the session, but so were all the other people in the house, including his mother who had been in the grip of a 50-year phobia of snakes.
"You have made such a difference to our Moshi Monsters Day at the GCR today. People all over are talking about you & your animals. Every time I came in you were helping someone. You are on our list of 'must haves' for future events we run (if you'd like to come that is!)"
HS; Events Organiser; Great Central Railway, Loughborough
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reptile handling events
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