1 Dead Fish, Plastic Gloves, Heaping Cup of Curiosity Plus Dash of Imagination Equal A CSM Recipe for Adventure

Erin Parlett takes a closer look at parts of a dissected squid while her lab mates

The students are surrounded by science: jars of pickled animals, plastic worm segments, an abandoned wasp nest, milkweed pods, charts and diagrams. Yet, despite all of the potential distractions, the students are huddled together and focused on a dead fish.

As part of the College of Southern Maryland’s Teen College offerings, the Land and Sea Adventure class explored the wonders of the natural world – the things they could readily see and the workings below the surface. The class of 22 students delved into the life sciences by performing lab tests to determine whether common foods contained starches or lipids (fat), and walking a horse trail to identify regional plant and animal species. They learned how to use real scientific tools including beakers, slides and three types of microscopes, and they participated in the penultimate scientific task, dissection.

“Eww, gross,” giggled one girl as a lab mate sliced gingerly through the final layer of an Atlantic Croaker, exposing intestines, liver and in several cases a full stomach.

“What is that green stuff?”

“That’s the remnants of the fish’s last meal,” answered instructor Ron Thomas, a.k.a. Mr. T, as he helped the students identify the internal organs. Prior to cutting, the students used marker pins to identify the external parts of the fish. This was the second dissection for the class, having dissected a squid two days before.

“I try to teach the students that even though all plants and animals are made of the same building blocks such as carbon and amino acids, and many animals share the same type of organs (heart, brain, stomach), there is a great deal of diversity to be discovered and it is really elegant when you think about it,” said Thomas.

“Brandon (Spangler), look under the gill cover; it’s nasty,” said Paige Beck.

“I want to be a veterinarian,” Beck said. “I like naming the parts and learning how they work. I have three cats, a dog and 10 fish at home. I have dissected a frog, a mouse, a cat and a couple other things in my grandma’s lab at Westlake High School,” Beck continued, before turning to help her lab mates.

“The fish are easier to dissect, in terms of identification. The internal and external parts are more discernable and the students can even examine the lens of the fish’s eye,” said Thomas, before he went around to each of the tables to give the students a drop of fish blood to examine under their microscopes. “Be sure to compare it to your slides of human blood, and write your observations in your lab journal,” said Thomas, who said that the squid and fish are donated to the college by Annapolis Seafood every year. Despite the smell, the students are truly getting into the task.

“Mr. T, I think I found the intestine,” Joseph Parker pronounced with delight as he pinched the thick, purply-gray mass with his gloved fingers and stretched it up near his head.

“I get to poke the (identification) pin in the stomach,” a student noted, as Weber Geomaere sat at a nearby table and examined a pile of organs. “That other table split open the stomach, why didn’t we do that?” he asked, and soon all four were hovered over the other lab teams table examining the green, sticky goo inside.

At another table, Erin Parlett convinced her sister, Jodie, to peek into their fish’s mouth. “Look at its tiny teeth. There are so many, and they’re really close together.”

“We’re busting out the eye,” announced Abigail Oesterling, who sat at the next table.

Meanwhile, the future veterinarian was holding her dissection pan out to show the class. “Isn’t it cool? I took out all the organs,” Beck said with a huge smile.

“I think I preferred dissecting the squid,” said her lab mate Emily Bailey, as she wrinkled her nose.

The College of Southern Maryland’s Kids' College and Teen College offer more than 100 summer enrichment programs for students ages 5 – 18. Classes are offered at CSM’s La Plata, Prince Frederick and Leonardtown campuses with schedules that allow for morning, afternoon or all day attendance. Class fields include engineering and information technology, arts and crafts, health and medical, personal development, foreign language, sports and athletics and math, and encourage an engaging, hands-on summer of fun. For information on the Land and Sea Adventure or other CSM Kid/Teen College classes call 301-934-7634 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7634 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7634 for St. Mary’s County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7634 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/KidsCollege/.