November 25, 2010 in Washington Voices

WV students check out brains, bugs at EWU lab

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

West Valley High School senior Jasmine Birch, 17, and West Valley science teacher Bill Bauman, examine a human brain during a field trip to a biology lab on the Eastern Washington University campus on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

The anatomy and physiology class at West Valley High School recently received a glimpse of college life and what a college class is like on a visit to Eastern Washington University – including a lab with human brains.

Teacher Bill Bauman brought 21 sophomores, juniors and seniors to Cheney last week to tour the school, visit the science lab and have lunch on campus.

He said the class has been making this trip for the last four or five years, but was unable to last year due to lack of funding.

To make the trip this year, Bauman received a $250 grant from the West Valley Foundation.

The students visited JFK Library, toured dorm rooms and the new EWU Rec Center.

“I’m so excited,” said senior Jasmine Birch, who said she wants to be a surgeon. She was really looking forward to visiting the science class.

The students visited John Shields’ biology room in the Science Building. They each pulled some drops of water out of a tray filled with pond water. “I know, it’s just a tray of glop,” Shields told the students.

Through the microscopes, the students saw Daphnia, almost invisible little bugs that live in the water and slough off eggs which grow into perfect replicas of the original bug.

“It kind of freaked me out,” said junior Brooklyn Robinson. She said that seeing its tiny little legs and learning that these bugs would survive a nuclear blast was pretty overwhelming.

Students also looked at their own cheek cells, adding a blue dye that clings to the nuclear material inside the cells. They could even see their DNA.

There were two human cadaver brains in the classroom, which students could take out of jars and handle. One was a normal brain, the other was a brain of a human who had had suffered a stroke.

“We dissected a sheep’s brain yesterday,” Robinson said. Hollie Jones, a sophomore, said the sheep’s brain was much smaller than the human brains they were looking at.

“Yeah, it isn’t as squishy,” Birch said. The sheep’s brain was very squishy, according to the students. Birch also found the spots on the brain of the stroke victim where the stroke happened.

The students also went to a room where some of Shields’ lab assistants prepared a frog to see the effects of electrical current on the frog’s muscles. The head of the frog was removed, as well as the skin from one of the legs. Shields used a probe to hit the muscles of the leg with 100 volts of energy to see the muscles contract and expand.

The West Valley students are accustomed to such sights in Bauman’s class. The teacher said students learn about bones and muscles, cells, anatomy and blood. Along with the sheep’s brain, earlier this semester the students dissected sheep’s eyes.

The class only meets for a semester, and Bauman said many of the students use it to get the science credit and some take the class because they are interested in going into some sort of medicine.

“Even if they’re not the strongest in science, there is still room for them,” Bauman said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email