© St. Petersburg Times, published August 2, 2002
TAMPA -- This week at the Museum of Science and Industry, the campers of Camp Cut-It-Up were rolling up their sleeves -- not for arts and crafts, but for back-to-back dissections.
"Okay guys," camp counselor Sonya Rose said with a clap of her hands, standing in a science lab between a stuffed Canada goose and an otter that lived at Lowry Park Zoo before it died of old age. "We are going to dissect sheep brains, eyeballs, hearts and lungs."
Facing her weren't just young campers. These were future veterinarians and marine biologists -- and even one youngster who hoped to be a taxidermist.
"Are the brains kind of mushy?" asked one camper.
"How big are the eyeballs?" said another.
"You'll find out," Rose told them. "Now, glove up, grab your trays and scissors."
Out came the big white buckets. Rose reached inside and pulled out something that looked like a grayish-brown sting ray. It was two lungs attached, a trachea and heart.
Each of the nine campers got one.
"Oh gosh," said Marissa Ho, 12, who wanted to be a veterinarian ever since her dwarf rabbit, Oreo, fell from her cousin's arms and died. "It stinks. I'm probably going to have to take a few minutes."
She inhaled deeply, then started poking.
"It's all gooey," she said.
Phuong Duong, 12, was the only camper not on the animal track. She wants to be a pediatrician. She once wanted to be a vet, but then she saw an animal doctor doing something involving a cow's rear end on the Discovery Channel and changed her mind.
She signed up for Cut-It-Up, geared to middle schoolers, because, "I wanted to look inside an animal and see what it's like."
The weeklong camp, which costs $190 for MOSI members and $255 for non-members, started Monday with small stuff: earthworms, grasshoppers, starfish and protozoan under a microcope.
Tuesday it was clams, a very smelly lamprey fish known as the Dracula of the deep, frogs and squid.
Wednesday, it was sheep. Thursday, a very smelly, 3-foot spiny dogfish shark.
These kids have pet hamsters, turtles and snakes -- as well as cats and dogs. They love science and read books like The Music of Dolphins, about a girl raised by dolphins.
And they are quick.
"What does a retina do?" Rose asked.
Dwight Causey, 12, raised his hand: "The retina is in the back of the eye. It helps us focus."
"What is pneumonia?" said Rose.
"Fluid in the lungs," answered Justin Stottlemyer, 12.
Campers felt the cartilage rings on a trachea and examined the cauliflower-like hills (gyri) and valleys (sulci) in the sheep's brain. They stroked a shark, which feels rough, like a cat's tongue.
They discussed stem cell research, animal-to-human transplants, what happens during a heart attack and a stroke. They talked about how man hunts hundreds of thousands of sharks just for the animals' liver oil, used in makeup.
There were funny moments, like when Rose opened the Ziploc bag of sheep brains and said, "Who wants a brain?"
Next came the eyeballs. One rolled off the tan plastic tray and plopped on a camper's lap.
"You'll be fine," Rose said to the camper. "It's just on your shorts."
Rose, a former medical research assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, encouraged the campers to try to peel the corneas off the eyes. Caroline Gonzmart, 13, carefully trimmed the fat around the eye with her 5-inch scissors and then rolled off the outer film.
"I did it!" she said, holding up the cornea, which looked like a contact lens.
"Look at these future vets," Rose said.
Today is the last day for these campers as well as others in Hillsborough County. Summer is over. Next week, it's back to school.
Camp Cut-It-Up kids plan to break from dissection today for a pizza and homemade ice-cream party. Rose plans to bring chocolate-covered crickets, which Marissa has tasted before.
"It tastes like chocolate-covered peanuts," she said. "Crunchy."