IN THE CLASSROOM -- Picking apart the sea kings

Danette Goulet

* IN THE CLASSROOM is a weekly feature in which Daily Pilot education

writer Danette Goulet visits a campus within the Newport-Mesa Unified

School District and writes about her experience.

The pungent odors of fish and formaldehyde filled the air of the

laboratory, where half of the students huddled on one side of the room

and half on the other.

Tom Garrison, professor of marine science at OCC, rubbed his hands

together in excitement as he roamed between the two groups of students,

making pointed observations and asking leading questions.

It was the final lab day for his honors marine science class, which he

says is his favorite.

The lab assignment was titled "Masters of the Ocean Realm." There are two

alternate masters, Garrison said.

"Forget about marine mammals," he instructed students. "They came later

and all derive from land mammals. Let's go back to the real masters."

Students in Garrison's class were divided evenly into two groups -- fish

proponents and squid proponents.

After extolling some of the virtues and shortcomings of each marine

creature, he had the divided class turn toward their respective tin pans

filled with dark wax.

On one side of the room, squid lay in tin pans awaiting examination. On

the other side, a bass lay in one pan and a rockfish in another.

Students donned semitransparent, green plastic gloves and carefully began

examining their specimens. They poked. They prodded. They sliced and

dissected.

Those of us who are slightly more faint of heart -- or at least repelled

by strong, obtrusive odors -- stood back a bit while others disassembled

several of the world's slimier creatures.

The final goal of the lab was for students to debate which creature was

truly the master of the ocean realm.

They were to prepare a case stating "our animal is the cooler because

...," Garrison said.

Squid, he explained, are extraordinarily intelligent, but have an

outdated body that limits them, while fish are streamlined but robotic

and completely lacking of intelligence.

When it was over the class took a vote, and although I'm told it is not

the usual outcome, the squid took the title of master of the realm this

year.

It was clear that no matter what the age, students enjoy nothing more

than being pitted against one another.

FYI

* WHO: Students in an honors marine science class

* WHAT: Dissected fish and squid, then debated which was the master of

the ocean

* WHERE: Orange Coast College

* LESSON: To learn about and examine both marine creatures

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