"Wild About Books" was this year's Read Across America's theme at Towamensing Elementary School.

That was evident walking down the halls of the school. The classroom doors were decorated with the students' creative and colorful artwork of animals found in the wild, from monkeys to pandas, along with the facts they learned about them.

On the last day of this special week, the school's PTO sponsored an assembly for the students, in keeping with the theme. Franklin Klock, program assistant from the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, delighted the children as he introduced them to three live animals.

"What is in our environment?" he asked the students.

Some of their answers were animals, water, soil, bugs, trees, plants, pollution and people.

"People are animals that can hurt or help the environment. You have to decide which one you want to be," Klock told them. "A lot of our animals suffer from the problems people make. Here at the center, we care for animals who have been hurt and then we return them to their environment, if they can be."

He explained that an animal's primary concern is finding food.

The first animal he introduced was the Western Hognose Snake. It is cold-blooded, hatches from eggs on its own from birth, and its tongue is used for smelling. It determines two things ... is it food or not food. It's one of the calmest snakes. It can't blink because it has no eyelids. It has no ears, but feels vibrations on the ground. It is colored to camouflage itself among the sand and rocks of the desert, where it is found.

Klock asked the students how many read the book, "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George. The story features a teenage boy named Sam Gribley, who runs away to his great-grandfather's abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains to live in the wilderness. He has a pet peregrine falcon.

He then revealed Katie, a Red Tail Hawk. Katie had been hit by a car and her one wing had to be amputated. The center will care for Katie the rest of her life, which could be about 20 years. In return, Katie will help educate people about Red Tail Hawks and their place in the environment.

"Hawks live everywhere there are open fields. They sit a lot; wait for food to come to them. They swoop down and grab their prey with their talons, which are very sharp. They have amazing eyesight and can see objects from a 1,000 feet up in the air," Klock told them.

The last of Klock's animal friends was Billy the opossum. He has only one eye. No one knew how he was hurt, but when he came to the center, he had to have his left eye removed.

"Opossums are decomposers. They eat a lot of dead stuff. When they breed, they have a lot of babies, 13-14. They are marsupials, which means, after the babies are born, they climb into a pouch on the mother and stay there until they are weaned. They have fingers, and on their feet, they have thumbs. They're good climbers and have more teeth than any other animal, around 50," said Klock.

He told the students that it is against the law to keep wild animals because it interferes with nature.

In closing, he told the students that he was giving them homework.

"In our society today, we're losing touch with our outdoors and experiencing nature, because of television, computers, our phones and texting. We don't walk. I need you to go home today and go outside. Experience what's out there and play. As a society as a whole, we're overweight. Kids, it's your job to go outside and play. Enjoy nature. Learn about nature. Someday, I'm going to need you to take my place."

The Carbon County Environmental Education Center is located at 151 E. White Bear Drive in Summit Hill. The phone number is (570) 645-8597, or you may contact them at cceec@ptd.net [2].