PEER Travels Across State to Address More Than 750 Students, Teachers

selfie in front of waterfallThe Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) PEER Program Veterinary Student Fellows reached more than 758 students during the month of July with presentations at the CVM, Houston, San Antonio, Midland, and Belton.

PEER fellows Erin Eads and Melodie Raese continued their Summer Science Safari presentations each Tuesday afternoon, reaching approximately 165 students who learned about animal behavior, conservation, and population control.

“For the animal behavior presentation, we again did interactive clicker training of the students,” Eads said. “For conservation and population control, we had the students play an interactive Kahoot game that we created. They split themselves up into teams and answered a series of questions about the presentation using their phones.

“They really impressed us with how close of attention they paid during the presentations; they even got all of the specific number questions right,” she said.

On July 2, the PEER fellows discussed animal behavior and communication with a group of 20 campers at another session of the Houston Humane Society’s Companion Camp.

“At the end, we played Pictionary, Taboo, and clicker trained students,” Raese said. “It was interesting to see how the different group of campers interacted with us compared to the ones from a few weeks ago. These campers were very energetic and enthusiastic to learn. It was great to be back.”

From July 11-13, Eads and Raese traveled to San Antonio to give a variety of presentations to 155 people and also met with veterinarians across the city, giving the two an opportunity to grow as veterinary students.

On July 11, the pair met with Dr. Rob Coke, at the San Antonio Zoo, who showed them the veterinary and isolation facilities, as well as the zoo commissary.

“It was really interesting to learn all about the plans for the veterinary expansion occurring in the near future,” Eads said. “The best part for me was actually getting to go with Dr. Coke to do a follow-up examination on an iguana in the herpetology department. The iguana had recently had an excision of a chromatophoroma on its side, and so we were able to discuss how he approached the tumor surgically and what post-op looked like for a reptile.

“Dr. Coke then took us around the zoo and showed us the collection, while answering any questions that we had, while also telling us about his journey as a veterinarian,” she continued. “He was very passionate about educating not just us, but also the zoo guests. In fact, we were able to learn how to use trans illumination to see the vasculature of a gecko in an exhibit, and then we also taught the guests around us. It was truly inspiring to meet with a veterinarian that has not just a passion for animal care, but also for education of all age ranges.”

On July 12, the fellows started off their morning by presenting at the Pre-Engineering Program (PREP) at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where they talked to approximately 85 sixth through eighth graders about careers in veterinary medicine.

“The group was very quiet and respectful throughout the presentation—they even took notes while we were speaking; however, they became pretty lively at the end when they were allowed to ask questions,” Raese said. “They wanted to know about our experiences as veterinary students, such as what is the craziest thing that we have seen in a veterinary clinic and what our future plans were after veterinary school.”

Afterward, the two headed to the Davis Scott YMCA to present to their Teen Camp on animal behavior. They were a very lively and, overall, great group of kids, according to Eads.

“They were very interactive and, despite it being the middle of summer, did a great job of paying attention,” she said. “Their favorite part was definitely getting to clicker train their classmates at the end, though. It was testament to the fact that if you have enough excitement and interactive activities, you can make learning fun, even during summer break.”

in front of seaworld signAt Sea World, the two were able to tour with Dr. John Ramirez, an entomologist employed by the park, who showed them the research and veterinary facility and introduced them to the trainers who worked up at the veterinary facility.

“We not only were able to learn about all of the different types of laboratory work that goes into caring for marine mammals, but we also were able to watch a training session of two of the male dolphins,” Eads said. “The best part was that we actually learned where to draw blood from a fin of a dolphin and how they condition the dolphins to present for blood draws. It was really neat to learn how the foundations of animal behavior that we teach to kids across Texas is applied to marine mammals like dolphins and walruses. It was truly an unforgettable experience.”

Rounding out the trip, Eads and Raese started with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute with Blake Harrington, who showed them all of the different primates— from chimps and baboons to macaques—housed at the research institute.

petting a dolphin “We learned about the veterinarians’ roles in primate research and were able to speak with Dr. Brasky, in chimps, and Dr. Hall-Ursone, in the veterinary building,” said Raese, who has a large interest in non-human primate research and was in heaven the whole tour.

“For me, the coolest part was seeing how the primates are cared for when there is such a high volume in a relatively small area,” Eads said. “I truly appreciated how much welfare is considered in each and every situation, whether it is from the size of housing to the number of primates allowed in a family group.

“It also amazed me how much groundbreaking research is done at that center, everything from developing vaccines for Hepatitis A and B to studying Ebola and Zika in their BSL-4 laboratory that they have on site,” she continued.

While meet with Dr. Hall-Ursone—who is responsible for overseeing all of the protocols, ensuring animal welfare, and performing any needed medical procedures for a study—the two learned about a laboratory animal veterinarian’s role in non-human primate research.

“She also took us to the veterinary hospital and the lab so that we could see the facilities,” Raese said. “She was one of the kindest people and was extremely passionate about her job. It was incredible to learn from experts in their field that literally love going to work each and every day.”

Their last stop in San Antonio was at the San Antonio Humane Society, where they talked to approximately 30 13-15-year-olds participating in the society’s Camp Humane about conservation and population control.

group photo“The kids really impressed us with their knowledge of conservation and why population control is so important, especially in large cities like San Antonio. They even knew animals off of the Texas endangered species list before we even told them,” Raese said. “We played Kahoot at the end to review the material that we covered, and each team scored almost a perfect score, making them the highest scoring group that we have had yet!

“They were passionate about caring for animals and many of them want to be veterinarians when they are older,” Eads added. “We opened up to questions at the end about being a veterinarian and the response was overwhelming. So many of them were very inquisitive about the profession, even as teenagers, and it warmed our hearts. It is so incredible to be investing in the next generation”

On July 16, it was back to Houston, this time to present again to the Houston Children’s Museum STEM and the Houston SPCA Critter camps.

At the Children’s Museum, the pair presented on food webs and food chains to 18 students from a variety of age ranges and backgrounds.

“At this camp, they had created their own wetlands, so at the end of our presentation, we had them create a food web from animals that live in the wetlands. We emphasized that in food webs, the arrows indicate the flow of energy,” Raese said. “The kids did awesome with the activity, and we even learned about the diet of some animals that we are familiar with, such as blue heron cranes and salamanders. It was a great learning experience for all of us, and the kids said that food webs were starting to make more sense after the activity.”

At the Houston SPCA Critter Camp, Eads and Raese talked to 20 kids about pet care by creating two stations—one on pet safety and one on pet nutrition.

“The kids were incredible in the best way. So many of them were passionate about animals and their welfare; we even had one girl tell me that she wanted to start her own pet treat company so she can make sure that pets get all of the nutrients that they needed in their treats,” Eads said.

“We taught them how to body-condition score and talked about common health problems in pets and how to keep your pets safe in extreme conditions, such as the high temperatures in Houston during the summer,” Raese said. “They were a great interactive group of kids that really made our job really fun. There is nothing that will warm your heart more than a group of kids who are passionate about animals and making sure they have the best life that they can.”

On July 18, we assisted Dr. Larry Johnson in presenting the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system to the Veterinary Enrichment Camp that was occurring through the CVM.

Our part was to demonstrate the anatomical specimens at the end and answer any and all questions that the campers had. We spoke to approximately 80 campers throughout the morning. The campers at the camp all were interested in veterinary medicine and already had veterinary experience, and so they were very interested in learning from us as veterinary students. It was great to be surrounded by high schoolers that were already so passionate about veterinary medicine!

On July 20, Eads, second-year veterinary student Callie Rogers, and third-year veterinary student Sophie Christilles assisted CVM director of Recruiting and Student Services Dr. Glennon Mays in representing the college during a presentation at the Clinical Learning Resource Center’s Aggies in STEM camp, where 25 campers learned about the various careers in health care.

During the presentation, Mays discussed the many roles of a veterinarian, Rogers gave short talk on life in veterinary school, and the three veterinary students finished with a demonstration on giving a physical examination using a stuffed dog.

STEM Camp participants“The campers were put into groups of three and allowed to practice the components of a physical examination on their ‘patients,’” Eads said. “We ended the talk by answering questions that the campers had about being a veterinarian/vet student.”

On July 24, Eads again assisted with clinical associate professor Dr. Tamy Frank-Cannon’s summer veterinary camp for 20 high school students aspiring to become a veterinarian.

“Once again veterinary students were paired with two to four campers and throughout the course of an afternoon went over laceration repair, splinting, how to spay a dog, and finished the camp teaching the campers how to suture,” Eads said. “My group was made up of two jokesters, and so it made the afternoon really light and fun.

“The coolest thing for me was that my campers were already so passionate about veterinary medicine,” she continued. “One of the boys I was working with actually had a video of a horse with caseous lymphadenitis, and we passed it around and talked about the pathology behind it. For me, that was one of the best parts of the day, because not only did I get to teach skills but I also was able to teach pathology to high school students.”

presenting at teacher's workshopFrom July 25-27, Eads and Raese traveled to Midland to present to 284 students and teacher.

The first presentation of the trip was on July 26 at the Region 18 Education Service Center STEM/Project Based Learning teacher’s workshop, where the PEER fellows spoke to 22 kindergarten through 12th grade teachers.

“We learned about teaching strategies for STEM, as well as the value of project-based learning,” Eads said. “The most surprising thing for us was sitting in the workshop and realizing that our new curriculum was exactly what we were talking about-project based learning, as an alternative to lecture, followed by examination.

“We were able to see the data and strategies behind what we have been learning and even found that some of the labs that we have done for Professional and Clinical Skills are actually being done on a micro scale in K-12,” she continued. “The teachers were so excited to hear about how we also are utilizing those skills in veterinary school.

Eads and Raese also spoke to the teachers about the resources that PEER offers and how PEER can help them in their classroom.

“They were really engaging and interested in all of the work that PEER had done over the years and were ready to utilize us in the upcoming school year,” Raese said.

At the Midland YMCA that afternoon, the pair presented to more than 180 4-8 year olds over the course of three hours, hosting rotation pet care stations on nutrition, animal behavior, how to use a stethoscope, and dressing up and taking care of a “sick” stuffed animal.

“The kids absolutely loved it, especially the stethoscope and dress-up stations,” Eads said. “They told us that they were real doctors, and when they grew up they wanted to be just like us. It was so exciting to share the love of vet med with little ones.

fingers glowing in the dark“We had also prepared finger puppet bees out of pipe cleaners and gave them to the kids so they could act out how bees pollinate and fly,” Raese said. “They were so excited and even those that didn’t like bees by the end were saying how bees are their friends and they want to protect them.”

>The last event of the month on July 30 was at the Bell County Expo Center, where Eads and Raese presented to 45 participants of the Bell County 4-H Veterinary Camp on dentistry, microbiology, infectious diseases, common livestock diseases, and anatomy.

“As part of the infectious disease presentation, we again did the glow powder activity, and the kids absolutely loved it,” Eads said.” It was funny—right before we started the activity, one of the girls actually raised her hand and told us about how she did this activity one time and how cool it was, not realizing that we were about to start that exact activity.”

“After we did the anatomy presentation we put out anatomy specimens to end the day. The kids were really excited to get to be hands-on and feel some of the things that we were just talking about in the presentation,” Raese said. “Overall, it was a great last presentation for July. The kids were excited about veterinary medicine and wanted to learn. It made giving five talks in two-and-a-half hours really fun.”