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Ashland Middle School science teacher Kristi Healy said the only thing that distinguishes her science classroom from, say, an English or math classroom is that her room has three sinks compared to two.

Therefore, when she took her eighth grade class to a bona fide science lab at Southern Oregon University, students learned lessons they couldn't have picked up in their daily science class.

Grace Riley-Adams, a student of Healy's who went to the SOU science lab on Friday, saw and touched for the first time a pig heart and a lamb's eye.

"It was really gross," she said. But she also described the experience as "in-depth, in a fun way."

Josh Harris touched a human brain. "It was like a big ball of condensed spaghetti," he said, searching for the right words to describe the organ to a reporter who has never touched one before.

Rocky La Pierre was intrigued by the appearance of a human lung that belonged to a smoker. "It was all black and swollen," he said.

Ursula Petersen was most taken by an experiment that crushed a tin can by changing the temperature of the water it was submerged in. "I really liked the chemistry unit," she said, recalling the experience.

Ryan Mills took the experience as a preview to what is to come in his science education. "It's a good lead in for the science categories we are going to cover in high school.

— — Ashland Middle School Max Estes, left, looks at an eye display while Lab instructor Barbara Fleeger, right, preps an eye from a sheep for a demo in the science department at Southern Oregon University Friday.

And Dylan Schinks took that logic to the next step. "That's the university some of us are going to go to some day," he said. "It was an insight into that as an option."

For Healy, those were the precise lessons the students were supposed to glean when she took them on the field trip.

"It was to get the kids out into the community," Healy said. "And get the community back into the kids. I always say the world is our classroom."

Like Schinks and Mills said, the other reason she embarked on the field trip was to "keep the kids hooked into future opportunities," she said.

As much as the field trip was about learning about science, it was also to show her students that what they are just starting to learn about is being applied by other people in the Ashland community. Healy said college students are good mentors to middle school students because they seem more like peers than teachers.

"College students are young and cool, not like old Mrs. Healy," she joked about herself.

She said her students really wanted to see the human cadavers. That the under-aged students couldn't see them was the perfect opportunity to coax them into going to college themselves one day.

"I told them, 'just go to college and you can work on cadavers for a whole year if you want,'" Healy said. "It was the perfect hook-up."

Healy took her students to meet with a graduate student with the Siskiyou Environmental Education Center. The grad student took the 50 middle school students around the science department and gave them a glimpse into several different scientific disciplines, including: botany, geology, wildlife biology, anatomy, chemistry and physics.

Healy said the experience was positive for both students and teachers.

"It was a mutual inspiration, not only for my students but for SOU as well," Healy said. "SOU has taken some hits lately in the science department. It was inspiring for their teachers to be connected with their future."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 226 or .