Porum GEAR UP sixth graders tour Tulsa Community College & Oklahoma Aquarium

Forty Porum GEAR UP sixth grade 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 TCC led by Student Recruiters William Baldwin and Ali Castillo. Porum students saw numerous buildings and learned about various programs on the updated Southeast TCC campus.

Students began the tour in Building 8, the Math and Science Building. Baldwin welcomed students to campus and asked an interesting question to get to know everyone. “If you could have any animal for a pet, and care was minimal, what animal would you choose?” Students answers varied from typical pet such as a dog or cat to more exotic species like dodo bird and saber-tooth tiger.

Next students ventured to Building 6, also known as the Performing Arts Center for Education (PACE) Building. This state-of-the-art facility houses performing arts programs. Students went behind the scenes to see the individual recording studios and the Black Box Theatre. Baldwin also discussed the numerous major options available in the arts programs. Not only can students perform through acting and musical talents, they can also explore the technical side of the arts through lighting, sound and costume design.

After the PACE building the tour moved on to the “Y” where three different buildings intersect. This is an ideal location for student-centered events like University Day, which was going on during the visit. University Day is a unique event for TCC students to explore their options after TCC. All the major state and private universities attended.

“This was an excellent event for Porum students to see,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo. “Though community colleges are a great way for students to start their education it was good for them to examine the options beyond an associate’s degree.”

Students were then led through Building 9 where the non-academic sites are located. Tour guides were able to take students into the “Hub,” also known as the food court, and show them the Campus Store. The Campus Store accepts financial aid to purchase all school supplies. There are also two flat screen televisions for students to watch sporting events and other popular programing. The Campus Store offers gaming consoles for students to borrow, for free, and play games in their free time. Building 9 also houses a gymnasium, which hosts a double basketball court, rock-climbing wall, walking track and tons of exercise equipment. This is all free for TCC students to use.

After lunch, Porum students traveled to the OK Aquarium in Jenks. Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo led students through the exhibits of the aquarium. They started at “Sea Turtle Island.” The large tank features the loggerhead sea turtle, a larger species of puffer fish, two species of small sharks and numerous other fish. Next students wandered to the back of the aquarium to see the popular Shark Tank. This is an almost half a million gallon tank with ten bull sharks and three nurse sharks. The huge walk-through tunnel is an exciting site for students to go inside and have sharks swimming all around them.

After the formal tour, students were able to explore the aquarium in small groups and learn about various animals they may never have seen before. There were many open water tanks for students to discover including three touch tanks for students to feel small sharks, stingrays and starfish. The aquarium has three tubes that students can actually crawl inside the different tanks. This was an exciting feature for students to actively become part of the exhibit. Many students went through the gift shop before leaving the aquarium.

“It’s important for students to gain this exposure to college campuses and educational exhibits in our area,” said Ranallo. “I hope they take what they learned and start to set educational goals for their own future.”

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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