Summer of STEM: Dive Deeper into Dissection!

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!


Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Lauraine and this is my fifth year working at the Explore Hope Science Camps. I will be a freshman at Hope next year and will be majoring in Biology along the Pre-Veterinary track. I absolutely adore these camps and love watching the campers’ eyes light up when an experiment is a success or their craft turns out just perfect! Now that I will be a college student I am finally able to lead camps after 4 years of assisting and I am so excited to share with you one of my all time favorite camps to participate in!

This week I led Diving into Dissection! Dissection is one of my passions and I love being able to share this with my campers. I even took this same camp when I was their age! This camp covers anatomy of different animals such as the rat and fish and also delves deeper into individual organs like the eyes, heart, brain, and lungs. The primary focus of this camp was to allow the kids to explore the in depth anatomy of the specimens and learn more about the physiology and functions of the individual organs within an organism such as a cow or a human. 

One of my favorite parts of the week was the dissection of the cow eye. The entire class was interested as I explained how the lens in our eyes reflects everything we see so that our eyes perceive correctly. They also loved taking out the tapetum lucidum from the eyes. This is the reflective surface behind the retina that allows cows, and other animals, to see well in the dark and causes eye flare in photographs. The campers all admired the marble-like blues and greens making up that structure.

Another major highlight of the week was our observation of a cow lung! We used an air compressor to inflate the lung and the kids were able to feel the tissue as it expanded and released and were able to visually see what happens inside their own bodies every time they breathe.

Does inflating a cow lung sound amazing to you? Do the next best thing and make your own model lung!

Breathe in, breathe out!

You will need:

  • A stiff plastic bottle cut in half
  • A balloon
  • Plastic wrap (you can replace this item with a balloon cut in half, using the top half)
  • A rubber band
  1. First you will need to cut your plastic bottle in half, keeping the top and recycling the bottom. 
  2. Second your balloon will be placed inside the plastic bottle with the end sticking out the top, then that end will be stretched over the mouth of the bottle. This will be your lung. 
  3.      
  4. Wrap the plastic wrap around the open bottom with enough slack to be grabbed and pulled and secure it with the rubber band. This is going to represent the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest (thoracic) and abdominal cavities. This muscle pulls down to allow your lungs to inflate and pushes up to deflate. When you pull down the balloon will inflate and when you push it back up, it will deflate. 

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