Seventh graders at Arbutus Middle School experienced anatomy hands-on in science class last week as part of an outreach program offered by the National Aquarium of Baltimore City.
Students in Lisa Stover's seventh-grade science class dissected restaurant-grade, previously frozen squid, to learn more about the anatomy of cephalopods, a class of marine animals that includes octopuses, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus.
"I think in science we sometimes wonder how things are put together and what they're made of," Stover said. "This gives them the opportunity to see something that was living and how it was put together."
The science department of Arbutus Middle School has organized the program for seventh-grade students for the past two years.
The effort is made possible by a grant from a grandfather who is on the school's PTA, Stover said.
"It's a really nice outreach program and a good way to bring something offered in [Baltimore City] into this school," Stover said.
The students were really excited to hear the National Aquarium educators were coming, Stover said.
The program was taught by Taylor Maddalene, an education aide, and Lauren Albright, outreach program coordinator from the National Aquarium.
The traveling program provides students the opportunity to learn about the anatomy of a cephalopod and understand it through a dissection.
Maddalene started off last week's session by giving an overview of what a cephalopod is and how it fits into the animal kingdom.
"There are three classes that belong under the mollusk phylum," Maddalene said to the class.
Bivalves, gastropods and cephalopods comprise the mollusk phylum and squid belong to the cephalopod class, Maddalene said.
She described the interior and exterior parts of the squid, before Albright passed out the soggy squid to the students to hold and feel.
"They've been dead a while. I promise they won't hurt you," Maddalene said, as the students eyed the purple squid.
As the strange looking creatures were placed in front of the students on sheets of newspaper, some of the kids pinched their nose to protect themselves from the pungent smell. Exclamations of "Ew!" and "Gross!" was uttered across the classroom.
But disgust subsided, replaced by curiosity.
They started off by becoming familiar with the external parts of the squid by counting its appendages with their lab partner.
Then came the dissection.
"For many of the kids, this is their first time doing a dissection," Albright said.
Albright and Maddalene walked around the classroom assisting the kids with the dissection and answering questions.
"I liked how we got to learn about the squid's body and how it functions," said Carly Boarman, an Arbutus resident.
For Alex Rosario, 12, of Arbutus, dissecting the squid was a new experience.
"I've never seen the inside of a squid before," Alex said.
Both Boarman and Rosario said their favorite part of the dissection was removing the lens from the eye of the squid, which turned out to be a messy endeavor.
Students had to remove the lens with the help of their lab partner. One pulled the lens, while the other held their hand over the squid's eye in order to stop "juice" from squirting across the table.
Hannah Owens, of Catonsville, agreed removing the lens was fun, saying, "It was cool."
Stover said it's a program that the science department hopes to bring back for future classes.
"I think it's a great opportunity for them to learn," Stover said.