It’s not just back to the classroom for South Plains College students. For many students in the sciences, back to school also means back to the laboratory.
After learning some of the basics about lab safety, the 30 or so students in the Monday and Wednesday morning lab section of Dr. Harriet Strickland’s General Zoology class moved from table to table to tackle hands-on projects. First up: measurements and bone X-rays.
Groups in the front tables weighed and measured guinea pigs and sea turtle hatchlings. The guinea pigs were toys, but Strickland said the toys represent the actual size of young guinea pigs. She said each toy guinea pig has weights sewn inside to simulate the real animal, too. The turtle hatchlings were also near the size and weight of the real animals.
In addition to collecting weight and size data in centimeters and grams, Strickland said students had to convert their data to pounds and inches.
“Many students are not familiar with using the metric system,” Strickland said. “But it’s used in the rest of the world, especially in the sciences. So, it’s important for students to learn.”
Second year student Austin Tomasini said he enjoyed the measuring portion of this lab.
“I enjoyed the mathematics part,” Tomasini said. “I really like math, stuff like that, doing all the numbers.”
Students found tables in the back of the lab covered with white paper to make it easier for them to see X-rays of human bones and X-rays showing bones from all over the human body were on display. At one table, students were challenged to reconstruct an entire human skeleton using unlabeled individual X-rays of bones.
Reconstructing a human skeleton from X-rays may sound easy, but Strickland said it’s not.
“On their first try, one group of students ended up with a skeleton who’s left leg was twice as long as the right,” Strickland said.
Students often see the human skeleton displayed in classrooms, Strickland said. In fact, she says SPC has big kits with life-sized synthetic bones students use to construct a skeleton.
“Using X-rays is just a different way of teaching the same thing,” Strickland explains. “We cover the human skeleton, along with the skeletons of other creatures, in much more detail later in the semester.”
At the last table in the back of the lab students used light trays to see X-rays even more clearly. Students at this table had to identify what body part they were looking at in each view. Some shots, such as a human foot, might be easy to pick out at first glance—others, no.
To finish for the day, students also identified bone breaks using X-rays. They tried to match shots of bone breaks with shots of how the breaks might have been fixed surgically with screws or plates.
Strickland herself is currently wearing a leg brace following an ankle break this spring. She says it’s interesting to see what surgeons use to put some broken bones back together. She says her own X-rays looked like some of the ones on display in class.
“Lots of students have had broken bones,” Strickland said. “But not everyone sees their X-rays. It can be interesting on a personal level to study them. It is also something that could be a part of someone’s career when they leave SPC.”
Tomasini said he’d never seen X-rays before this lab.
Third-year student Kylie Corbin said she particularly enjoyed the X-rays part of this lab.
“Seeing the bones and seeing how they were fixed with plates or screws, that’s very interesting to me,” Corbin said. “Seeing how something can be fixed if something’s broken.”
Both students say they would recommend the class.
“I think this is a good class to take since [Strickland’s] very good at explaining and describing, and we don’t need any previous knowledge on anything,” Corbin said.