Camp offers children a taste of many careers

Ridgewater College instructor Roxanne Olson slid an X-ray film onto the light box. "That's a cat," she said. "Do you see anything in there that should not be there?" The students in the "Inside the Animal" class at Ridgewater College Summer Camp ...

Ridgewater College instructor Roxanne Olson slid an X-ray film onto the light box.

"That's a cat," she said. "Do you see anything in there that should not be there?"

The students in the "Inside the Animal" class at Ridgewater College Summer Camp moved over to get a closer look at the long needle clearly visible in the animal's belly.

Olson put up another film. "What did this dog eat," she asked. The students quickly recognized a fish hook in its stomach.

Olson put up a variety of X-rays. She asked students to answer questions about 10 of them, a little quiz on their third day of summer camp. The camp started Monday and runs through today. Some of them she put up just because they were cool.


A tiny mouse skeleton could be seen inside the good-sized snake in one.

The skeletons of babies could be seen in the X-rays of a pregnant rabbit and a guinea pig.

In just a few sessions, the students, from ages 11 to 14, had learned a lot about how animals are put together.

As Olson pointed to different parts of a skeleton, they could identify different types of bones and knew that a dog has 13 pairs of ribs.

A few X-rays showed bladder stones in dogs. Sometimes their diets can cause the stones to form, said Olson, who teaches anatomy in the veterinary technician program at the college.

She put out a box of stones for the students to examine. Some were large, several inches across, and others were small. A plastic box contained a few dozen pebble-sized stones all taken from the same dog.

After looking at X-rays, the students went with instructor Karen Marcus to the radiology room. They didn't actually take X-rays, but they learned all about the procedure, with the help of Marcus's tolerant yellow Lab Gander.

The students moaned and groaned under the weight of the heavy protective apron-like shields they had to wear, along with thyroid shields and heavy gloves. It took two of them to lift the 80-pound Gander onto the metal table of the X-ray machine.


"You have to work as a team," Marcus told them. She showed them how to center the area to be X-rayed on the table and how to hold the dog down. "Hard to hold him when you've got lead gloves on, isn't it," she asked.

Earlier in the week the students had met a chocolate Lab puppy named George and had listened to Gander's heart and lungs.

"The first day after we looked at all the skeletons, we got the two live animals and they had to try to picture where the bones were on the actual live animal," Olson said.

The kids were surprised to find out that there would be quizzes in the class, Olson said, but they were OK with it when they found out they would win prizes, not get actual grades.

Most of the students said they were enjoying the variety of classes offered at the camp. Some had been to several camps before, and others were at their first camp.

Along with having fun, they were learning a lot, they said.

Sarah Olson, 14, of Spicer said she had learned about what dogs will swallow -- "toys, needles, just stuff that you find around the house."

She had seen that animal and human skeletons have some of the same features, said Jade Kutzke, 14, of Lake Lillian. "You just have to look at it from a different perspective."


Jade and Leah Miller, 14, of Willmar said they thought they might like to be veterinarians someday.

Leah said she had volunteered at an animal rescue operation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was a little sad to see so many animals needing help, she said, "but it was fun."

The students are learning about many other things at camp. Cole Knudsen, 13, of Kandiyohi, had gone canoeing and fishing the day before. Cody Lasnetski, 11, of Willmar, said he had learned how to take apart an engine.

Cody said he was enjoying his first visit to the camp. "It's a lot better than staying at home," he said.

The goal of the annual four-day camp is to give students in grades 5-8 a small taste of a variety of subjects, with each student able to participate in three classes during the four-day camp, said Tari Niemeyer, child development program manager for Ridgewater. It also gives them an early introduction to the college and some of the programs it offers.

The camp has 52 students this year, said Niemeyer, who coordinates the camp. Many are from Willmar and nearby communities. Some are from the Twin Cities visiting relatives.

"It's a great opportunity for them to be exposed to a wide range of careers in a short period of time," Niemeyer said.

In addition to the veterinary class, students were able to study small engines, crime investigation, cooking, science, computers and digital photography.

What To Read Next
Get Local