As recently as a year ago, Deosjah Brown would have thought twice about touching a mouse, a snake, or a lizard.

Today, the 17-year-old junior who attends Rogers High School tends to Kody, a hefty bearded dragon, as if it’s second nature.

“He’s a really chill guy,” she says as Kody sits in her arms, seemingly unaffected by being pulled from his cage at the Natural Science Technology Center in South Toledo. “We have snakes here, mice and rats, and I absolutely love them. We learn how to feed them, groom them, learn about breeds, diseases, we are taught how to handle them. Instead of reading it out of a book, we can see it and tell you what each animal is.”

Students from all six TPS high schools take career prep courses through the animal science program, spending the first half of every school day at the center. The two-year program is offered to juniors and seniors and provides 1 science credit and 4 electives toward graduation.

On this particular day, students are feeding the animals, checking on animal breeding projects, and — it’s not all fun and games — cleaning cages, doing dishes, and attending in-class instruction. A student feeds a mouse to a hungry ball python. The students check on their mice and rats, review data for a study on a leopard gecko, and look over the quail eggs that are sold to the public.