Dani is the current laboratory coordinator for the undergraduate mammalian anatomy labs at Penn State University. In 2014 she received the HAPS and Primal Pictures scholarship, allowing her to attend her first annual conference in Jacksonville. Once she finishes her Master’s degree, Dani hopes to pursue a career in Anatomy Education.
I was approached last Fall to take over a Pre-Med summer camp for Penn State’s Science Outreach Program. Because I have never been a summer camp participant or counselor, I was nervous about being in charge of something so large (I had a staff of 22 college students and 75 middle school campers). In my opinion, the camp was a huge success in large part because we modeled our camp activities after our college A&P courses. Since we design our own lab manuals, have models, specimens, and equipment available, and train teaching assistants every semester, I simply made a few modifications to adapt my curriculum to meet the needs and comprehension-level of a new, younger audience.
Each day we covered a different body system(s). The campers first examined the basic structures and general functions and then were able to explore medical applications. By the end of the day, they could diagnose patients and learn more about specific diseases. Campers were very proud of themselves when they could use medical devices and perform experiments that doctors would normally perform (for example, testing blood samples to see which patient had diabetes). Just like real doctors!
Hands-on activities where students could touch and see the anatomy and physiology were the most popular. Many campers agreed that the dissections were their favorite part, while others loved ultrasound, blood pressure, and EEG. The greatest challenge for writing the camp curriculum was trying to be concise without leaving out important material. It was hard to gauge just how long it would take an 11-year-old to find the large bones in the skull, or to identify different organs, because that was something I had never had to do before.
Next summer I will eliminate some anatomical structures from our list, and include more game-like activities. Our college students are preparing for a career in medicine, while these kids are trying to enjoy their summer with some fun science education. Pretending to be real doctors solving medical mysteries (and having fun while doing it) was the primary objective for the camp, and I feel that we met that goal.
Please check out our YouTube video to see some of the fun activities campers experienced!