Neighbors For Kids (NFK) and community volunteer Karen Driscoll are proud of the kids in the Kids Zone who spent several weeks taking part in a Sea Lion research project in the facility’s science classroom. NFK’s strong emphasis on marine biology and ocean literacy provided a unique opportunity for Karen to develop and lead a hands-on project with local students.
The particular specimen used was collected at the Otter Rock Marine Reserve near the end of July. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits removal of sea lions without permission from agencies of the federal government, so because of the time it took to gain this authorization the group used a partial animal and the rest washed into the ocean.
The Guin Library at Hatfield Marine Science Center was a valuable resource for Karen in the preparation of the skeleton. Prior to its arrival at NFK, there was cleaning, removal of cartridge, degreasing, whitening and finally a “Pinniped Projects Articulating Seal and Sea Lion Skeletons” book. This gave the class an approximate evaluation for bone identification and the kids viewed it as a giant puzzle with 200-400 pieces varying in shapes and sizes.
The class started with an overview of skeletons at Halloween, including human and sea lion comparisons and 10 students. The project quickly moved to 5 students of varying ages but with those who had a keen interest level. The group met for 1-1.5 hours per class and 2-3 times each week. Karen realized that after a full school day it was a lot for kids to take on, but she said they had been great despite the fact it was hard work.
Students started with front limb bones, then rear limb bones, the vertebrae (this was a challenge and they really used their intellect, reasoning skills and “outside the box” capacity for thought), then finally they finished the 15 sets of ribs.
The articulation project brought science in on so many different levels; biology of marine mammals – as in all mammals have 7 cervical vertebrae, chemistry of bones, their function and the physics of how bones allow movement. The insides of bones portion was intriguing to the students, examining the hollow interior with spidery connections and analyzing how they function. The group took part in many impromptu conversations with everyone fully participating.
Overall, Karen felt it was a positive experience for all, “For me it has been exciting, challenging and a great opportunity to know and share science with the kids. I’ve been impressed with the thoughts generated by these kids.”
The Sea Lion Articulation project described above may be available for the public to view at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in late December or early January. For more information about the Kids Zone or its other science-oriented classes and activities please call 541-765-8990 or feel free to stop by the facility, take a site tour and meet NFK’s team of staff.