Eufaula GEAR UP seventh graders tour the Oklahoma Aquarium & Tulsa Community College

Thirty Eufaula GEAR UP students recently traveled to Jenks to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium and Tulsa to tour Tulsa Community College (TCC). Students began the morning by participating in a guided tour at OK Aquarium. Education Specialist Julia Gibson led students behind the scenes of the OK Aquarium exhibits. The “Inside Story” tour took students through the kitchen where biologist Bailey Hawkins was preparing meals for the animals. Next students got to see the shark exhibit from the top of the tank. This exhibit is a 40-foot-wide tank that is 12 feet deep. The Education Specialist explained why they keep the top of the exhibit so dark. They only turn on the lights twice a week to feed the sharks. Therefore, the light is a stimulate for the sharks to come toward the top of the tank.

Next, students explored the exhibit from inside the Shark Tunnel. The tunnel goes directly through the shark tank and allows visitors to see the sharks swimming all around them. Surprisingly the tank isn’t made of glass but 4-inch thick acrylic. Acrylic is stronger and safer for the animals and visitors. Eufaula students were able to explore other exhibits of the aquarium with teachers. While there the “Touch Tank” was open and students could feel real sharks and stingrays. The otters and beavers were also being fed, and students learned about their diet and habits in the wild.

Another popular exhibit was “Sea Turtle Island” where a new, large tank with small sharks, a puffer fish and the featured sea turtle were on display. The area also included a unique tube for students to crawl inside the actual tank but still stay dry. Gibson explained that the sea turtle is commonly known as a loggerhead turtle. He weighs approximately 250 pounds and is 23 years old. While she was talking to students, the electric eel was setting off the voltage meter which was interesting for students to hear and see. There were numerous exhibits for students to interact and learn about each animal.

After lunch, students toured the Southeast campus of Tulsa Community College (TCC). Admissions Counselor Nash McQuarters led students through the beautiful campus. TCC offers over 100 majors for students to find the right program for their individual career goals. Programs are hands on to prepare students to transfer to a four-year university or enter 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. Nash explained the various ways to be involved in the arts even if a student doesn’t want to be a performer. There were display cases with costumes for various productions like The Little Mermaid, Mulan, and Aladdin that were designed for shows by TCC students. They also saw the Black Box Theatre which is a more intimate setting. The stage and seating can be arranged any way to accommodate the show needs.

Students toured the campus library. The TCC libraries have over 60,000 books for students to access. There are also many study rooms students can reserve and computer spaces, all free for TCC students to use. After the library, they walked through the Campus Store where students can use financial aid to purchase textbooks and other school supplies. They also have “hang-out” areas for students to socialize and relax. There are two large televisions where students can check out gaming consoles to play video games with friends.

Building 9 is where the fun happens. It features a gymnasium and the Student Life office. Student Life oversees all Student Organizations on campus. There are student organizations for all students. They are based on gender, ethnicity, interests, language, religion and more. TCC students also can get discounted tickets to events, shows and other attractions around the Tulsa area such as the Zoo. The Tulsa Zoo recently featured a special event called “Paint the Zoo Blue” when TCC students and their families could get free admission to the zoo if they wore blue.

The last stop was Building 8 where math and science programs are located. An eye–catching display in this building is dedicated to the family that donated funds for the newest building on campus. “The Family Tree” is a neat chandelier of DNA. It is said the DNA is that of the donor family and their dogs! Downstairs students saw inside the Health Sciences center. These are the labs for nursing students. Nursing students gain real-life experience with computerized mannequins that have all functions of a patient.

“This trip really opened students eyes to the possibilities after high school. I hope they take this information back to improve and add to their personal goals and achievements,” said Rachael Ranallo, GEAR UP Education Coordinator.

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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