The eyes have it - Science programs a success

April 27, 2013

“Anybody need the bucket?” Ruthie Skammer asked cheerfully as she walked into her wellness class at Dallas High School on April 17.

The students were just beginning to dissect cow eyes as part of a visiting presentation by the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown.

But the bucket went unused. Some students looked a bit squeamish but all were attentive as their classmates cut into the eyes and placed the different parts in a tray provided for them.

Skammer teaches wellness and is the wellness chair for Dallas High School.

For those who have been out of high school for a while, wellness classes combine traditional physical education classes and health classes.

Skammer brims with enthusiasm when discussing her chosen field.

She said the Da Vinci presentations were made possible by a grant she applied for after attending a presentation on organ and tissue donation awareness. She received $3,927 to enrich the classroom experience.

Skammer explained that one of Da Vinci’s presentations involved dissection and that the other used brain sensory activities to teach students how their brains work.

Students in grades 10, 11 and 12 rotated through two presentations throughout the day.

Presenter Steve McGorry, who has worked at the Da Vinci center for two years as outreach coordinator, taught the dissection class. “We do school workshops in the center but we also go on the road,” he said

He discussed the anatomy and functions of eye parts as the students followed his instructions. He asked questions to involve the students in their learning.

Dante DeAngelo, 18, of Dallas, held the scalpel in his group. He plans to become a surgical tech. “I’m an outdoorsman,” he said. “This stuff interests me.”

At an all-girl table, Christy Conway, 17, of Shavertown, had no problem doing the dissecting. “I like taking things apart. It was the same in biology class.”

The group dissecting eyeballs was also able to look at a set of healthy lungs and compare it to a set of diseased smoker lungs.

In a classroom next door, Max Needle, who joined the Da Vinci Center in February, demonstrated brain sensory activities.

Needle’s humorous approach helped him establish a rapport with the students as he conducted activities focused on vision and reflexes. He used several students to demonstrate a few experiments before letting them loose to explore the room’s activities.

Students wore special glasses which mimicked eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. They also tested their reflexes in a variety of ways.

Nell Adams, 17, of Dallas, liked an activity in which she had to negotiate a maze with her eyes closed. She said, “It was hard and challenging.”

Classmate Liz Dillon, 17, of Dallas, was surprised by a reflex activity that involved catching a tennis ball. “It was harder than it looked.”

Skammer has already purchased human models with removable anatomical parts with grant money and more activities are planned. She’s going to take the AP biology students on a field trip to the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation in Jessup.