March 18, 2019
By: Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA—Suzanne Middle School students in classroom #20 were buzzing with anticipation as they prepared for their very first dissection on Friday morning.
The 26-sixth graders in the new Medical Detectives course donned safety goggles and blue latex gloves as teacher Ramona Talampas presented her last-minute instructions.
“You are so lucky to have this experience!” she said while delivering a preserved sheep brain to each lab group.
“And this very special tool, the scalpel, should not be picked up until I give the direction!” she reminded.
At first, there were a few squeals and mouths agape, but students quickly took on the task-at-hand of dissecting and labeling parts of the specimen.
One student in each group was chosen to carefully cut from the frontal lobe to the brain stem.
“At the beginning it was very scary and my hand was shaking a bit,” said novice medical detective Chris Chung.
“I went off track at first, but got right back in line,” added classmate Max Liu of his first experience holding a scalpel.
“It was a big responsibility cutting the brain in half for our team.”
“Dissecting is so cool – we’ve been really excited for today!” said James Chang.
“It’s an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10!”
Students prepared for the lab by learning the role of the sheep’s brain and diagramming each part in journals.
On March 15, groups successfully identified the occipital lobe, cerebellum, brain stem, thalamus, hypothalamus, corpus callosum, frontal lobe, and parietal lobe with toothpick tags.
“The tissue was hard and it broke off one of the toothpicks,” Julia Deng commented.
“We were shocked!”
“The brains were stinky, but it wasn’t too bad,” commented Penny Bian.
“I think the sheep brains smelled like tofu!” added Bryce Hsu.
Talampas reported that the second period enrichment class recently completed its first bacterial plating lab.
“We made the bacteria in discs grow with four different antibiotics,” described classmate Bryce Hsu.
“And we learned which antibiotic worked the best,” said Christine Deng, 11.
“This class is fun and it’s interesting!”
“It’s preparing us for high school and jobs,” Chang added.
The young inquirers are becoming aware of how healthcare professionals act as medical detectives in identifying, treating, and preventing injury and illness in their patients.
“They’re using real-world techniques that biomedical scientists use,” Talampas said of the Project Lead the Way gateway course that is laying a strong foundation for STEM learning at Walnut High School and beyond.
Students use medical tools to investigate vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
“I like the hands-on experiments in this class,” said Bian, who prefers project-based learning rather than sitting and listening to a lecture.
The Suzanne students will next be looking at the nervous system and taking part in a neurological disease report, case study, and diagnosing a patient who has a particular illness.
“This is sixth grade!” Talampas exclaimed.
Girls in Science! Suzanne Middle School 6th graders Chloe K. Chung and Emma He celebrate completing a dissection on March 14.
Suzanne Middle School sixth graders tackle sheep’s brain dissection on March 14.
Suzanne Middle School teacher Ramona Talampas leads sixth grade Medical Detectives in first dissection on March 14.
Sixth grader Penny Bian shows the brain diagrams she completed in the PLTW notebook prior to the dissection lab.