Thirty-two GEAR UP students from Savanna recently traveled to Oklahoma City to tour the SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology. The museum is a unique, one of a kind educational experience that focuses on the form and function of the skeletal system with hundreds of skulls and skeletons on display from around the world.
The tour began with an introduction to osteology given by Museum Manager Kathryne Thorne. She explained the difference between extant which is still existing and extinct which is not existing. Thorne explained the process of cleaning and assembling the skeletons. She showed the students a current carcass being cleaned by flesh eating beetles and discussed the use of hydrogen peroxide in the cleaning stage.
The tour continued with a scavenger hunt designed to help the students investigate the various specimens at the museum. During the hunt, students had to find the skeletons of tiny creatures such as mice or hummingbirds. In addition, they search for the skeletons of large animals. The museum displays the 2,400-pound skeleton of a 40-foot long humpback whale that hangs from the ceiling. This specimen is considered to be the most complete humpback whale specimen in North America; every single bone is original.
After touring the museum, students took part in an Animal CSI class led by Thorne. Students were introduced to the world of forensic sciences and learned how to identify pathologies. The classroom lab was divided into four stations where Thorne led students through the process of examining the evidence of trauma and disease on actual animal bones. Then each team communicated their findings with their peers.
“This museum visit was a great experience for our students,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell. “These educational opportunities may spark a new hobby or interest for the students and maybe even a new career.”
The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.