Andrew Smith is a professional naturalist, published writer and educationalist. For twenty-two years he was a classroom teacher. He now undertakes freelance work as a researcher, lecturer, writer, natural history film maker and presenter of the Minibeast Workshops. He is a former Research Associate of the Natural History Museum and elected Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society London. He has lectured all over the world – and has worked on field projects for US Fish & Wildlife, The Indian conservation group Zoo Outreach and IUCN – Sri Lanka.
As a classroom teacher – over 22 years, he has taught in Secondary, Primary and Special Needs Schools. He left teaching in 1999 to set up the Minibeast Workshop and Rainforest Workshop having borrowed the idea from a live animal show that he booked regularly into his school. The show, fronted by a doctor of zoology, was professional and thoroughly entertaining but Andrew could not get him to focus his workshop and take into consideration specific National Curriculum Science themes - such as senses, variation, classification, habitats, food chains and adaptation. Other workshops that he booked were, overall, over-priced disasters, with some presenters unable to hold the children's attention, displaying inappropriate giant reptiles (one handler was bitten by his python in front of Andrew's class) or demonstrating astonishing ignorance when discussing even the most basic scientific ideas. In fact, it soon became obvious that most were not coming from any kind of academic background and, at best, were simply entertainers or enthusiastic exotic pet keepers. What they were not - were teachers, and what they were unable to do was deliver a science lesson.
After witnessing one handler earnestly explain to his children that reptiles are descended from dinosaurs and another, when discussing habitats, fail to mention at any point that different habitats have different animals and different plants - Andrew Smith realised that there was an opening for a professional, academic, specialist, live animal workshop aimed at specifically delivering a national curriculum science lesson. A lesson, which at no point involved a macho man, with inappropriate giant reptiles, reinforcing the negative images that many people have of these wonderful animals.
Andrew promises you that what you will get is a professional, academic science workshop, using a wide range of exciting but appropriate exotic tropical animals that enable you - the classroom teacher - the opportunity to garner a wealth of accurate educational information to use in your classroom. By exotic we mean a wide range of tropical invertebrates (molluscs, crabs, millipedes, insects, arachnids) and a selection of carefully chosen vertebrates - such as reptiles and amphibians. We do not use birds or mammals. As much emphasis is paced on imparting knowledge - we recommend classroom teachers to remain in the classroom in order to fully utilise the resource that we essentially are.
Andrew also assures you that much thought has gone into the health and safety of both the children and the animals. We do not use inappropriate giant reptiles and we never place a tarantula spider on a child's hand.
Andrew Smith has published three academic reference books on tarantula spiders (The Tarantula Classification and Identification Guide 1985, Baboon Spiders 1990 and Tarantulas Spiders of Mexico and the USA 1995) and over the years, numerous scientific papers. He has also written and directed a number of natural history television documentaries - Desert Tarantulas (1995) Earth Tigers (1999) 1640 Brazil (2019) Brachypelma: The Red Leg Tarantulas of Mexico (2020) and is working at present on a new documentary - Pelinobius: Africa’s The King Baboon Spider (2021). Before lockdown he was in India filming a new documentary – Tiger Spiders, which will be screened in 2022.
Andrew Smith was profiled in the National Geographic programme Explorers Journal. For more information on his new video documentaries and books go to lovetarantulas.com
Andrew Smith has travelled extensively and worked on research stations and film projects all over the world - including North America: the USA and Mexico, Suriname, Brazil, Costa Rica - and India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Borneo, South Africa, West Africa: Ghana, Gambia and North Africa: Morocco and Tunisia.
For over thirty years Andrew Smith has been travelling abroad collecting tropical insects and spiders. Even as a young teacher he would immediately fly out in the first week of the summer holidays to collect bugs in some far distant country. We thought you would like to take a look at a few photographs taken over the last thirty years! The obvious joy of finding a new bug or spider or even a snake can be ascertained in every picture.
Andrew Smith also spends many hours collecting spider and insect folklore, which he gathers from tribal elders and itinerant workers. In India, such an encounter led to an Adivasi tribal member teaching Andrew the secret of the great Indian snake trick. Field work, all of which, as you can imagine, ensures that our workshops are genuine and totally original.
The photographs that can be found here of Andrew (with various small friends) were taken in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Ghana and Mexico. You will note that in early images Andrew has dark hair - which recedes as the beard gets longer.