High Touch High Tech of Charleston

Class gets hands-on experience with biology

The Post and Courier
December 2, 2003

James Island company brings science - and - cows innards - to school
Of The Post and Courier Staff

It's the day before Halloween, but James Island Elementary fourth-graders are not thinking about candy or costumes, tricks or treats. Instead, they are more excited about seeing the inside of a cow. Carlisle Dockery, 8, rubs her hands together and gives a sly smile, reminiscent of a mad scientist about to uncover something gross and gruesome. "We're going to touch cow brains today," she said, still grinning with classmates.

Carlisle and classmates are not mad, but they did get to be scientists for a day Oct. 30. The students participated in the Globs, Goo and Guts experiments, sponsored by High Touch-High Tech. The James Island company brings a hands-on scientific experience to a classroom for a 90minute, in-school field trip. The program, meets the National Science Student performance standards and the South Carolina curriculum standards, educates students on subjects that range from nutrients, planets and women in science to weather, dinosaurs and, you guessed it, cow guts.

"All right, Ms. Butler, your guts are coming," a voice yells from the hallway to teacher Kathy Butler. "Bring on the guts," Butler answers, her voice nearly drowned out amid the eager students' cheers. A hush falls when the petite scientist, dressed comfortably in khaki slacks, blue shirt and the traditional long white jacket, enters the room. "I came here today to turn all of you into scientists. Are you ready?" Jennifer Aikman, the High Touch-High Tech scientist asks. The room erupts into a chorus of yeas.

Before the highly anticipated cow organs make their entrance, Aikman helps the students define the role of a scientist and then talks about how the organs interact with one another. Acetone, poured into a Styrofoam cup, demonstrates how molecule bonds are separated. There's even an experiment using saltine crackers to illustrate the difference between mechanical and chemical digestion. But this isn't the first time these students have heard these terms. "We've been studying science and health and the body in class," said Shelly Hultin, 9. "We talked about how food goes down in our bodies." Shelly said her class studies and now the in-school field trip are helping her to understand how to live healthy.

Aikman, a third-year High Touch-High Tech scientist, smiles when the students talk about what they are learning and share their enthusiasm for science. "I love getting their reaction and hearing them say they want to be a scientist. They are really listening," Aikman said. "We are trying to make it fun and inter esting while trying to educate them and get them thinking about the concept of science at an early age. We have to change their attitude about science. It's not all boring. Everything is based on science."

Aikman said her company's goal is to stress a hands-on experience. Hands-on is exactly what these fourth-graders get. Armed with Latex gloves, students know it's time to get down to the heart, or liver, or kidneys, or stomach of the matter. "Eeew. That looks like chocolate," Carlisle said, squirming as she peers at the bovine kidneys. Aikman jumps in with an explanation. "Cows have two kidneys. Our kidneys help us clean out our system. Look at all of the grooves." The students' oohs and aahs cease as they squint and concentrate on the indentations.

Aikman then shows a cow liver, carefully placed in Zip-loc bags to protect the fragile organ. "The liver cleans out our blood. It's really cool and spongy to absorb the blood," she said. A cow stomach is next. More eeews resound.

"And now the grand finale," Aikman said, as the classroom envelops her. "This is the cow's heart." "That's the worst smell ever," a student said, holding her nose. "Let me pet the cow," another student said as he pushes his way through the group to get a closer look at the arteries and veins.

Marshal Anderson, 10, moos, teasing those who are curious, but cautious. Ryan Gann, 9, and Kianya Richardson, 10, don't stand back. The Globs, Goo and Guts make their day. "This is fun. I love the guts and the goo. I love the whole field trip," Ryan said. Kianya couldn't help but gush over the guts, too. "I love touching the kidneys," she said, adding that she wants to become a scientist so she can "go all over the world and do all kinds of fun experiments." "This is spectacular," Butler said, proud of her students' astuteness during their first inschool field trip. "This is something they will remember forever. How many times do you get to open up and look inside of a cow's heart?"

Butler said she and the students will learn about the rest of the human body and look forward to their next in-school field trip. "I had a really cool day. We touched all the cow's organs, and it was kinda gross, but cool," Shelly said. But she has one problem with the experience. "I wish they wouldn't have done it right before lunch. I think I've lost my appetite." Shelly wonders if she will still eat her hamburger, but Carlisle doesn't have to think twice. "I think I'll stick with the fries," she said.
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