Eufaula GEAR UP sixth graders tour OK Aquarium & Tulsa Community College

Fifty-one Eufaula GEAR UP students recently traveled to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, then to Tulsa to tour Tulsa Community College (TCC). Students began the morning by participating in a guided tour at OK Aquarium. Education Specialist Michelle Zarantonello led students through the back rooms that house the quarantine tanks. The “Swim into Science” tour was a behind the scenes tour of how the biologist tend to and prepare aquatic animals for the museum exhibits. The animals rotate in the exhibits and the aquarium receives new animals frequently. On this day Eufaula students got to see stingrays, starfish, an alligator snapping turtle, a bearded dragon, a ball python and numerous coral. Zarantonello showed students the luminescent power of the coral when she put a blue light over each one. Students wore special glasses to see the glow.

In the public side of the aquarium students started their journey at the “Sea Turtle Island” exhibit where a new, large tank with small sharks, a puffer fish and the featured sea turtle were on display. The aquarium also included a unique tube for students to crawl inside the actual tank but still stay dry. Next students got to explore the “Shark Tank” with a walk–through tunnel for the full experience of bull sharks swimming overhead and being fully surrounded by the tank. There was also an open tank where students could feed stingrays and see them bury themselves in the sand.

“The Aquarium is a wonderful facility to show students a new side to science. The updated exhibits kept students excited about learning and peaked their interests about careers in the science fields,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo.

After lunch, students toured the Southeast campus of Tulsa Community College (TCC). Admissions Counselor Nash McQuarters and Student Recruiter William Baldwin led students through the beautiful campus. There are four main campuses in the Tulsa area. The Southeast campus is the largest with approximately 10,000 students. Programs are hands on to prepare students to transfer to a four-year university or directly into the workforce. Class sizes are small, averaging only 25 students.

Students began the tour in Building 6, also known as the Performing Arts Center for Education (PACE) Building. This state-of-the-art facility houses the performing arts programs and serves as the performance hall for the Signature Symphony at TCC, TCC Music and Theatre productions. There are two theatres in the PACE building to host an array of visiting artists and performance groups as well as spaces for student productions. Students were able to go behind the scenes to see the smaller Black Box Theatre.

Next students made their way to Building 9 where the gymnasium and Student Life office is located. While walking through the gym, Eufaula students saw a heated basketball game between TCC students. They also learned that the Student Life offices are where all Student Organizations are established. TCC students also can get discounted tickets to events, shows and other attractions around the Tulsa area such as the Zoo. Students also got to see inside the campus library located in Building 5. The TCC libraries have over 60,000 books.

While walking though the “Hub” (food court) inside Building 7, TCC students Marc Westcott and Tyler Bond took time to let students know about a campus event called “HVS” or Humans vs. Zombies. This is a fun social event around campus for students to get to know each other in a fun way. The last stop was Building 8 where math and science programs are located. Here students saw inside chemistry lab classrooms and the Health Sciences Center. The Health Sciences Center is a state of the art teaching facility that can also serve as a trauma center in the event of a natural disaster or local emergency.

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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