RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KATV) — Russellville High School teacher, Chance Duncan has taught school for 16 years.
"I have always kept animals in my classroom because we talk about various concepts in biology related to species survival and adaptations to particular environments," Duncan said.
I have always found it helpful to have the animals in the room so that it can illustrate some of these sort of abstract concepts that we discuss.
Not everyone was on board at first with snakes coming into the classroom but Duncan says students are beginning to conquer their fears.
Every year I see students come in my room who are kind of uncomfortable or a little bit nervous but very quickly they realize that the snakes are not these scary monsters that they thought they were," said Duncan.
"They play a really critically important role in their ecosystems. They are very, very important to preserve their presence and keep them around."
Keeping these snakes around is just what Duncan is working to do.
These are Louisiana Pine Snakes," said Duncan showing the snakes. "They are probably the rarest snake in the country. I have been working on this project producing Louisiana Pine Snakes since 2016. I obtained my first one, the female that is in this box right here.
Duncan got a male two years later, he said that is when the eggs started to come.
After multiple failed attempts of what Duncan said was from not figuring out the formula to produce fertile eggs- a miracle happened.
"These are the four baby Louisiana Pine Snakes that we hatched this summer," said Duncan. "My female, she laid her clutch of eggs on March 10th and then these guys hatched out on July 21st."
Russellville High School is believed to be the first secondary educational institution in the world to produce a critically endangered snake species.
Even after students leave Duncan's class, their education on snakes will continue in another teacher's class.
"His students will be extracting DNA from these snakes, amplifying that, determining or confirming that they are Pine Snakes," said Duncan. "They will also be calculating how unrelated the two are, the two adults that produce these babies and will be calculating differences between the adults and the babies and in between the babies themselves