Canadian GEAR UP sixth and seventh graders tour Tulsa Community College & OK Aquarium

Fifty-one Canadian GEAR UP students recently traveled to Tulsa to tour Tulsa Community College (TCC) and Jenks to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium. Students began the morning by participating in a guided tour at the Southeast Campus of TCC. Student Recruiters William Baldwin and Ali Castillo led students through the beautiful campus. TCC is the third largest school in our state with enrollment numbers around 25,000 students. There are four main campuses in the Tulsa area. The Southeast campus is the largest with approximately 10,000 students. Though this is a large Oklahoma college, they manage to keep class sizes small, around 25.

Students began the tour in Building 6, also known as the Performing Arts Center for Education (PACE) Building. All students at Canadian take band so it was interesting for students to learn about opportunities to be involved in college using instruments. They also discovered they could participate in the productions at TCC behind the scenes by designing costumes or on the technical route of lights and sound. As they left Building 6, students got a nice view of the newest outdoor seating area on campus—a great place to soak up the sun while working on college projects or just a nice area to eat outdoors.

Next students made their way to Building 9. In this “Hub” area, the food court and Fireplace Lounge are located. The Fireplace Lounge is another area for students to socialize, relax or work on assignments. It features a ping-pong table, billiards, a giant Connect Four game and more. They also passed the Campus Store where students can use financial aid to purchase textbooks and other supplies needed for their education. The last stop in this building was the gymnasium and Student Life office. The gym offers everything a college student needs to stay fit and healthy. There are two large basketball courts, a rock climbing wall, walking track, a variety of workout equipment as well as free fitness classes such as yoga and cycling. The Student Life offices are where all Student Organizations are. TCC has numerous student organizations including a video game club, anima, trading magic cards as well as the more traditional organizations like student government. Students interested in starting a student organization can contact the Student Life Office.

The last stop was Building 8 where math and science programs are located. 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. An interesting feature to this building is the chandelier strands of DNA hanging from the ceiling. Like all DNA, they are unique but these are special to commemorate the donors that gave funding to make Building 8 the newest building on campus. This exhibit is formally called “The Family Tree.”

“Tulsa Community College never ceases to amaze me with state–of–the–art facilities and diverse programs. The school has so much to offer, and I hope students recognize the opportunities available to them in the Tulsa area,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo.

After lunch, students traveled to the Oklahoma Aquarium to learn about the various aquatic animals. Education Specialists Julia Gibson and Michelle Zarantonello led students through the public side of the aquarium as well as some behind the scenes spots. The “Inside Story” tour went behind exhibits detailing how they are set up as well as taken care of daily. The tour started at the Shark Tank where the ten bull sharks and three nurse sharks reside. Bull sharks are somewhat aggressive, and students observed some wounds the sharks had from fighting with each other recently. The largest shark in the tank is a female that is over eight foot long and weighs 200 pounds. The salt-water tank is made of acrylic that is four inches thick. It was interesting to learn the tunnel inside the tank that can be used as a shelter in the event of a tornado.

Next students saw inside the kitchen where all meals for the animals are stored and prepared. The staff prepare food that comes in frozen and add a vitamin paste to ensure the animals are receiving the nutrients they need. Through the kitchen, guides led students to the top of the shark tank. The open water tank is where almost half a million gallons of salt water is filtered each hour and fifteen minutes. After the guided tour, students were able to explore the aquarium. There was a touch tank with small sharks and stingrays. There were numerous other exhibits for students to see including the newest addition “Sea Turtle Island” equipped with a tube/bubble for students to crawl inside the tank!

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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