McAlester 6th Grade GEAR UP Visits the Skeletons Museum of Osteology

Thirty-eight McAlester sixth grade GEAR UP students recently visited the Skeletons: Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City, Okla. The museum is so unique that it has been featured on national television programs, such as Modern Marvels and Dirty Jobs.

Students were divided into two groups for the day. Group one started the day by participating in one of the museum’s 12 educational programs while Group two participated in a scavenger hunt throughout the museum. After the first educational program, the second group had the opportunity to participate in the educational program while the first group conducted their scavenger hunt.

The educational programs were led by Sam Abbott, Skeletons: Museum of Osteology Education Coordinator. Each educational program is designed to engage and motivate students through differentiated instruction, student-centered activities, and science exploration. The educational program the students participated in was the Keys to Identification, which familiarizes students with dichotomous keys. Using the dichotomous keys, students worked in groups to identify various types of animal skulls.

Ashley Mason-Burns-Meerschaert, Skeletons: Museum of Osteology Education Director, said the most interesting part of the museum is how it was started.

“Our museum is different than most museums, because it is a private collection of one person,” Mason-Burns-Meerschaert said. “Our founder started the collection when he was seven years old. After decades of collecting, there are about 8,000 specimen cataloged.”

The scavenger hunts throughout the museum allowed students to search for interesting facts about the various skeletons and skulls.

The museum has more than 800 specimens on display, including a Humpback whale skeleton, West Indian manatee skeleton, African bush elephant skeleton, and giraffe skeleton. Almost all of the items on exhibit are real, and replica pieces are labeled. There are no dinosaurs on exhibit because most of the skeletons are from animals still living today.

“It is so important for students to enjoy learning,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Brianna Brassfield. “Skeletons: Museum of Osteology allows students to have a unique educational experience while having fun.”

After the educational programs and scavenger hunts, students enjoyed pizza delivered by Marco’s Pizza. During lunch, students shared their favorite experiences as well as things they learned throughout the day.

“I liked working together, trying to find out what the answers were to the scavenger hunt,” said Gracey Glenn, McAlester sixth grade GEAR UP student.

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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