* 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
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outdated body that limits them, while fish are streamlined but robotic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
It was clear that no matter what the age, students enjoy nothing more
than being pitted against one another.
* WHO: Students in an honors marine science class
* WHAT: Dissected fish and squid, then debated which was the master of
* WHERE: Orange Coast College
* LESSON: To learn about and examine both marine creatures