On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Mr. Gates’ Principles of Biology II 8:15 class began arriving at the Natural Science Museum around 8 a.m. We were told to be early, 8:10 a.m. at the latest. We were there to have class as usual, but with a guest instructor and we were to take thorough notes. Our instructor was a man in his late twenties or early thirties and he was just as humorous as he was educational. As he taught us about the many species of animals, reptiles, and insects, he was sure to keep us entertained with jokes and gags. He interacted with the class with a king snake and an adolescent alligator, at separate times of course, and allowed those of us who weren’t scared to feel the thick, smooth scales of the alligator’s tail. Alligators were his key point, so he asked the class, “Do any of you know how many species of alligators there are?” and the answers were along the lines of, “20?” or “50!” and he said, “There are only two, the American alligator, also known as the Mississippi alligator, and the Chinese alligator.” This was a fact that I found interesting and I am sure I was not alone. After cracking a few more jokes, he educated us on the number of snake species in Mississippi, which he told us is 55 and he also told us that only 6 of the 55 are venomous, and he was very specific when he explained that snakes cannot be ‘poisonous’ because poison is ingested and venom is injected.
Following our classroom session, the class was split up into two groups and i was in the first group. We were taken into the museum’s research labs and among all the preserved creatures and fossils, we got to see a humongous whale vertebrae that was found in Mississippi which used to be almost completely under water, this was my favorite part of museum although it is behind closed doors. Our instructor led us to a dim lit room, every wall was lined with locked grey cabinets and there were 2 rows through the middle. We were all unsure of what these cabinets contained as our instructor began to tug on the handles to see which cabinet would be unlocked. When he opened the doors, he pulled out a drawer that was chock full of well preserved, Red-tailed Hawks, with at least 8 in the drawer, he said some of them dated back to the year 1930, we were looking at a bird that roamed the lands of Mississippi in the 1930’s! I thought this was amazing and this was also a first for me, after all the years of field trips to this museum, I was finally on the ultimate field trip, beyond the “Employees Only” sign. Once we finished touring the room full of locked cabinets, our group was given the chance to roam the public areas of the museum while the second group was given the same tour of the research labs. The aquatic area of the museum had a new, interactive tank where a student intern allowed us to touch, feel, and observe a few sea stars and sea urchins, this was also a first for me. I grew up going to this museum, but I had never seen it in this capacity. I left the museum in awe of the experiences I had just gained and excited to learn more about these career opportunities as well as the creatures we just learned so much about.