Teacher Feature: Ms.L’s creature collection helps students learn biology


Rachel Vincent

Biology teacher Jessica Lichtenwald with her pet snake


Are you an animal lover? Then head down to Gloucester High School’s very own zoo in Room 2411. There, you’ll find a variety of creatures – from the smallest cockroaches to to the longest snakes, and much in between.

Biology teacher Jessica Lichtenwald, also known as “Ms. L”, has accumulated these pets for years. Some she has bought on her own, while others were donated by students and friends. Her extensive collection contains a bull snake, corn snake, bearded dragon, tarantula, hedge hog, fish, and a colony of cockroaches.

“I like weird animals,” said Lichtenwald.  “I’m intrigued by the diversity, and the way they’re so adapted to their environments.”

When dealing with these different animals, Lichtenwald is able to get to know their different personalities.

Jasper, the corn snake, is very active in his cage but calms down when he is held. He’s not aggressive in anyway, in comparison to the bull snake, Snarky. “The bull snake, he’s more aggressive in general, especially about his food,” Lichtenwald said when asked about the contrasting natures of her snakes.

Izzy is a curious and friendly bearded dragon

Mrs. L’s most recent addition was Libra, the hedgehog. This diminutive animal has come a long way from when she first arrived. When Libra was brought to her, she was very flea ridden and required special treatment to make the parasites go away. According to Lichtenwald, the animal is now much happier and slowly warming up to the people in her environment. However, because of the cool temperature in the classroom, Libra is being kept at Lichtenwald’s home until her return next school year.

These animals not only provide company, but they also intrigue and educate the students who come through Ms. L’s classroom each day. Whether or not you’re afraid of big spiders or slithering snakes, interacting with these animals can give you a new perspective on the animal life on our Earth.

“What I like about it is that it creates conversation with students and it helps them be more interested in the biological sciences,” said Lichtenwald. “It makes kids aware of what’s out there, a lot of [the students] didn’t even know bearded dragons existed or that there was a such thing as a bullsnake.”

“It’s fun having them in class”  said senior Aislinn Vitale. “Not only because we get to play with them and hold them but almost everyday we learn new and interesting facts about them.”

So next time you are in the science wing, stop by room 2411, introduce yourself to Ms.L,  and check out her interesting animals and insects and animals.