Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

Step Outside Ordinary

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The 2013 OSA campers

Summertime: lazy days by the pool, sleeping until noon and all the video games your controller can handle. It’s the overworked student’s paradise. In the summer of 2013, however, 14 Oklahoma middle school students left ordinary behind to take part in a most amazing adventure. The Oklahoma Science Adventure (OSA) camp, a weeklong educational endeavor operated by the Sam Noble Museum’s ExplorOlogy® program, allows students to discover alongside professional scientists, without paying a cent.

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Campers at the ropes course 

That’s right, without paying a cent. Thanks to partial funding by the Whitten-Newman Foundationthe program is free for participants. During OSA, students have the opportunity to conduct field research, conquer the University of Oklahoma’s ropes course, canoe down the Illinois River and sleep beneath the world’s largest Apatosaurus in the museum’s Hall of Ancient Life. What more could you ask for? 

Last summer, students also investigated a unique Oklahoma fossil site known as White Mound, an ancient shallow ocean where, more than 400 million years ago, an assortment of animals, including trilobites, crinoids, brachiopods and corals, lived. Nick Czaplewski, the staff curator of vertebrate paleontology, assisted students in collecting a variety of fossils. Based on their understanding of modern animals and fossil evidence, they constructed an example of what an ancient ecosystem might have looked like.

 

Fossils at White Mound

Although OSA promises new friends and fun-filled memories, it’s about much more than that. The program affords budding scientists a chance to gain hands-on experience, awarding them awareness and confidence in their own abilities. For many, this revelation generates the initial spark of a lifelong passion.

“It really surprised me how hands-on it was. It was a good surprise,” recalled Abby Holden, of Claremore, Okla. Holden explained that science used to be a sore subject for her in the classroom, but after OSA she feels enthusiastic and confident.

Holden conducts ecology research

 According to Holden and several other students, field experience ranks high above classroom learning when it comes to both education and enthusiasm. According to Clay Dominy of Shawnee, Okla., there is no comparison.

 “If you want to be in paleontology, learning in a classroom does not prepare you. They don’t teach you about geographical maps. Out in the field, though, you can see everything you need to know,” Dominy said.

 

Moxley gets up close and personal with nature

Another camper, Ella Moxley, a seventh-grader from Norman, Okla., said she never realized how hands-on science could be until spending a few days in the field, where she learned to overcome her squeamishness towards insects. Moxley learned first-hand that to be a scientists, you’ve got to be willing to get down in the trenches of nature.

“I would recommend OSA to any science enthusiasts who are definitely not afraid to get dirty,” Moxley said.

Of course, OSA isn’t all work. Moxley and Holden both described their canoe trip down the Illinois River as the pinnacle of their journey. According to Dominy, however, jumping into the ponds and scooping up tadpoles proved to be the most fun.

Dominy hunts for tadpoles

So whether you’re hoping to have the time of your life, explore an interest or escape the mundane routine of long summer days, OSA is for you. Don’t let this summer be just another series of wasted days by the television. Applications will be available in the winter of 2013, and we hope you’re ready to take the plunge. Join us, and step outside ordinary.

Summer Explorers in the News

A young explorer wades in a local pond in the museum's Slime and Scales class

This is the time of year when our Summer Explorers program is in full swing. Every day our education team leads groups of kids out into the ponds, streams, fields and forests around Norman to experience nature close-up and personal.

For some of these young explorers, it is the first time they have ever really been out in nature on this level. Over the years, our educators have ceased to be surprised at how many students know more about the animals of the African serengetti than the animals native to their own back yards. The lure of electronic entertainment draws our kids deeper and deeper into the climate-controlled virtual world and further and further away from the real one. You don’t need to hear me argue in favor of getting our kids out and dirty, but if you want to learn more about it, read Richard Louv’s best-selling book “Last Child in the Woods.”

Anyway… it’s a fun time of year. Every morning a group of clean kids troops out of the museum. And a few hours later a group of very wet and muddy kids troops back in.

Last week Steve Sisney, a photographer for the Oklahoman, joined the “Slime and Scales” class on a trip to a local pond and captured some of the action. Follow this link to Steve’s video footage on Newsok.com and join education officer Jes Cole and her class of 7 and 8-year olds as they make an unusual discovery…

http://www.newsok.com/multimedia/video/28134675001