McAlester 6th grade GEAR UP students visit the Museum of Osteology in OKC

Thirty-eight McAlester GEAR UP students recently traveled to Oklahoma City to visit the SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology. Students were welcomed to the museum with multiple skeletons in the lobby area. Inside they divided into two groups. One group participated in a scavenger hunt of the museum exhibits while the other class moved to the classroom for an “Animal CSI” lesson.

From comparative anatomy to classification to adaptation and locomotion, SKELETONS has been designed with learning in mind. Currently displaying over 300 skeletons from all corners of the world, visitors have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast many rare species normally not seen in museum exhibits. In addition, the museum features a variety of North American specimens ranging from tiny mice and shrew skeletons to a 40-foot humpback whale.

While participating in the scavenger hunt, students discovered over 700 specimens within the museum. Skeletons were categorized by scientific characteristics in various viewing cases. Each student was given a questionnaire to find 13 facts within the displays. They learned many facts about animals based on the info on each exhibit. For example, one fact they found was about horned lizards warding off potential predators. They also saw the skeleton of the longest venomous snake in the museum, the king cobra.

After students completed the scavenger hunt, they learned about forensic pathology in the “Animal CSI” class. Education Specialist Sam Abbott taught students about forensic pathology. Pathology is damage that may be the result of trauma, disease or infection. These pathologic conditions might tell you if the animal was hit by a car, shot by a gun, died from a disease or was killed by another animal. After learning the various types of pathology to look for, students were able to examine bones and make conclusions about the animal’s life and cause of death. Some specimens they looked at were a skunk head that had been infested with a parasite and an elk scapula that had a fatal bullet wound.

“The ‘Animal CSI’ class was so neat! The museum staff puts on wonderful educational activities that are fun and keep students engaged in learning,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo.

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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