Remembering Drupal 2006-2021: An iguana that changed our lives

This iguana grew up with the Class of 2021- the ESSL mascot


courtesy of Adam Farbman

Drupal “suns” on a rock in one of the exhibits in the laboratory.

by Alex Dembeck and Dalton Markel

Imagine being an elementary school student, getting off the bus to go on a field trip. You walk inside, not only to be greeted by the staff, but also by their friendly, free-range sand-colored iguana. This is what many Frederick County students experienced when they met Drupal at each visit to the Earth Space and Science Lab, the ESSL. 

The ESSL is Frederick County Public School’s state-of-the-art STEM center and is the site of many elementary and middle school field trips. Since he was adopted as a rescue in 2010, Drupal has been the face of the lab. On February 8, the ESSL announced the passing of Drupal, inspiring many community members to share their fond memories of the amiable iguana. 

Frederick High alum Taylor Routzahn said, “Meeting Drupal was just a really cool experience because I had never seen anything like him. It was my first experience with an iguana.”

Like Routzahn, many students had their first experience with an iguana–or any reptile, for that matter–when they met Drupal. As he was wandering the laboratory, lucky students even got the chance to pet him. 

“Drupal provided a wonderful opportunity for people to experience an animal they typically wouldn’t encounter. He instilled a sense of wonder and awe that, fittingly, ties into our vision of the ESSL,” said  Co-Director Adam Farbman. 

Drupal played a role in the childhood of many older FCPS students and his passing only stands to remind me that we are all growing up so fast.

— Lexi Cioffi

Linganore senior, Lexi Cioffi, had similar memories of her field trip days with Drupal. 

“Meeting Drupal when I was younger gave me more insight to all of the various kinds of animals there are and how organisms come in so many different shapes, sizes, and types! Drupal also served as great entertainment while at the ESSL,” said Cioffi. 

Students weren’t just watching Drupal wander through the ESSL, but also they learned from him. Drupal was a big part of many lessons, such as those about animals and their habitats. 

ESSL Co-Director Lisa Bruck said, “Drupal was a big part of first and third grade lessons, but all 18,000 students got to see Drupal during their visits to the ESSL.”

Parents who chaperoned the field trips remember Drupal, too. 

Linganore parent Mary Rajnik said, “[The students] all loved to interact with the wildlife exhibits, especially the reptiles. Drupal was a part of generations of kids’ education. He was a member of the ESSL throughout the entirety of the Class of 2021’s education!”

Drupal passed at the old age of 14, which Farbman explained is roughly 94 human years. During his long life, Drupal contributed a lot to the overall environment of the ESSL.

“[Drupal added] excitement and uniqueness!” said Farbman. “Nothing was better than watching our visitors’ faces when they realized he was real!”

Drupal celebrates his 14th birthday summer 2020. (Adam Farbman)

Not only were visitors fascinated by Drupal’s presence, but also by his personality. Drupal would often interact with the people around him. 

Bruck said, “Drupal definitely had a personality. He knew when he was being photographed and would actually pose for pictures. When people would talk to him, he would do a shaking motion with his head to communicate.

Although the ESSL was closed, Drupal went online. Bruck and Farbman have been posting lessons, such as their “I Wonder Wednesdays” since the shut down. In June 2020, they hosted “Drupal’s Birthday Bash” on Facebook Live, where they shared some of Drupal’s favorite foods, as well as recapped their previous lessons. 

In their interview with WDVM, Bruck and Farbman said they don’t intend to rush out and find an iguana replacement.  Instead, they are looking to memorialize his life and legacy at the laboratory.