As a grade-schooler, Elizabeth Knotts took a biology field trip
at The University of Southern Mississippi 18 years ago and decided
then to pursue a career in science. Now a biology student at Southern
Miss, Knotts hoped to make the same kind of impact on the lives
of young students touring the university's Biological Sciences Learning
Center on Friday.
Knotts, a senior
biology major from Purvis, was one of a handful of graduate and
undergraduate student volunteers who led more than 150 students
from Columbia Primary School on the center's "Biology Trail."
Featuring stuffed rattlesnakes, wooly mammoth teeth, whale skeletons,
spiders, marine tanks and more, the trail consists of 17 stations
where students learn about the wonders of the natural world.
Ryan Green, 8, all the eye-popping exhibits were right up the future
to study about creatures when I grow up, like starfish and swordfish,"
Green said, standing near a display of deep-sea creature exoskeletons
and preserved stingrays. Green was rattled a bit by the carcass
of a sidewinder when he first entered the Learning Center because
of a dream he said he had the night before. "When my teacher
said we were going to look at snakes, I had a dream last night that
a snake came up and coiled up beside me," he said.
8, also said she got a scare when she was greeted by the rattler
and a stuffed alligator near the center's front door. "My teacher
scared me - I thought they were real," Kelly said with a smile.
coordinator Aimée Lee said the biology trail is a big draw
for students from kindergarten through the university level. "We
haven't really had to promote the center because it gets such good
word of mouth from the people who come here," Lee said. "Schools
are always looking for good field trips, and this one is free."
25 tours and several hundred students a year, the Biology Trail
and Learning Center was created in 1997. Formerly the Frazier Museum
of Natural Science, the center is a focal point for the university's
Department of Biological Sciences, housed within the College of
Science and Technology. Two of the center's main attractions are
an authentic whale skeleton called a Basilosaurus (Mississippi's
official fossil) and an intact horse skeleton.
is an integral part of teacher preparation in the life sciences,"
Lee said. "The university enjoys a proud tradition of teacher
education, and preparation of biology teachers is an essential activity
of the Department of Biological Sciences." Funded by the National
Science Foundation, the center offers instructional technology,
informative stations, teacher enhancement workshops and experience-based
Whitehead, a senior biology major from Columbia, said she volunteered
for the field trip to "get used to teaching science to children."
is a great way to get them inspired," said Whitehead, 23.