BIDDEFORD — “It smells like chicken,” said one Biddeford Middle School student.

But the pinkish-gray lump ”“ roughly the size of a baseball but more oblong in shape ”“ was far from poultry. Instead, it was a sheep brain, and the seventh-grader who made the assertion, fostering laughs from her peers, was dissecting it that Thursday as part of a science-themed field trip to the University of New England’s Biddeford campus.

Biddeford Middle School science teacher Ann Putney, who accompanied students on the trip, said this week marked the fourth year the school has sent each of its seventh-graders to UNE to participate in the interactive workshop on brain anatomy.

“Part of the life science curriculum (at BMS) is neuroscience,” said Putney. Her students have been learning about things like brain structure and the function of the different parts of the brain, she said, and the field trip is a way of putting that knowledge into action.

“Oh my gosh.” cried one of the students, as her classmate John McKay cut into the “water balloon,” as Michael Burman described it, surrounding the brain.

Burman, a UNE psychology professor who led the workshop, then prompted the students to shake their heads, explaining that this white, balloon-like casing ”“ part of the three-layered meninges, which houses protective fluid and functions as a framework for blood vessels ”“ is the reason our brains don’t bang around in our skulls when we move.

“This is awesome,” said Tabitha Clark as she took a turn at slicing into the brain. “Now I get to rub it in my little cousin’s face that I actually got to dissect a brain.”

Although some students seemed a little grossed out by the activity, Clark felt perfectly comfortable and explained that she’s seen her mother perform surgery in the past.

“This is nothing,” she said with a grin.

Earlier in the day, the 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds also spent time on the other side of campus in the marine science building, where they had a chance to get up close and personal with fish, sea urchins and other aquatic creatures.

Burman said he thinks it is these types of hands-on, small-group lessons that can really make an impact on learning.

“A lot of middle school education right now is in large classrooms and based on theory or discussion of how it works,” he said. “But because of the amount materials cost they don’t get a lot of exposure to hands-on learning like this, and I think that exposure really helps and helps solidify some of the ideas.”

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]



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