February 9, 2008

My first few weeks of school

Other than the snow day, this semester has been going well. With the paper deadline for CRAC nearing, I find my lectures not exactly up to par, but the labs are going well considering the issues with space, time, and resources. The first 6 or 7 weeks of this semester are devoted to osteology - I would have made the majority of the class osteo and integrated forensic examples throughout the lectures and labs, but with only 6 study skeletons and without a larger room for the students to study them properly, I'm cramming as much skeletal information as I can into a few short weeks.

The first lab involved animal-vs-human, old-vs-new, and bone-vs-nonbone. I set up six stations, with four of them devoted to various aspects of animal-vs-human anatomy (shoulder and ankle joints, jaw and vertebral column, cranial differences, and knee and pelvis). Most everyone managed to get bone-vs-nonbone, although the piece of coral was troublesome. And old-vs-new went well in spite of the fact that my "new" bone was days old because of the snowstorm.

The second lab (wow, two labs in one week!) took me several hours to put together, as I am obviously much more interested in developing hands-on exercises for the students than lecturing at them for 50 minutes. Since I'd only managed to cover the cranium on the day between the labs, I had exercises where the students had to label charts of the splanchnocranium, the calvarium, the endocranium, and the basilar portion. The biggest challenge in those was trying to figure out what the little lines in the crappy diagrams were pointing at. None of the 6 study skeletons had an associated hyoid bone, which was unfortunate, since I had already designed an exercise around the assumed presence of it. Ah well, the students used a textbook. A mandible let them speculate on the reason there were only two molars in each quadrant rather than three, and two more skulls let them test an exercise on aging and sexing a skeleton. One of my students even pointed out something I hadn't noticed about one of the study skeletons (which I just pulled out of its box that day): she retained her upper deciduous canines, which caused her upper left permanent canine to come in all wonky and her upper right canine not to erupt. It could be seen barely poking out of the bone of the palate behind the incisors - awesome. This will be a great teaching skull later in the semester to show what kinds of dental anomalies can help positively identify a body.

And later this week, I have a grant proposal due for course development. As this is a brand-new offering at Cortland, there isn't much in the way of equipment to teach forensic anthropology. I do have six disarticulated skeletons and one real articulated skeleton (kept under lock-and-key in an old locker), but my calipers are all plastic and appear to have come free with the skeletons, which were purchased around 1972. So I'm asking the school for a little under $500 to buy a few pairs of decent-quality digital vernier calipers, some outside (spring) calipers rather than the hella-expensive spreading calipers traditionally used to take the length and width of skulls, and a microscope. I read up a little on microscopes, and this is the one that I currently want. It appears to have good objective lenses, a viewing head that rotates 360 degrees, a movable stage, and LED illumination. It also has a USB cable to send output (stills and movies) to a computer. The last feature sold me on it, as I think a projectable microscope has excellent teaching value, and this one retains its functionality as a standard microscope for use by faculty who don't need this capability. But it's $450, which is the majority of my budget, so if you have any suggestions for other microscopes, let me know.

That's all the news from my course at the moment. I hope to hear from the school about the small grant within 2-3 weeks, but we'll see. Technically, we are supposed to requisition equipment through our department, but there wasn't enough time since it's a new course offering. Then again, Cornell and Ithaca College don't offer Forensic Anthropology, so Cortland might consider funding the course because it's unique in the area.

3 comments:

Trey said...

Could you use a loupe?

Kristina said...

Sure, I *could* use a loupe. I did use one for the bone/nonbone exercise in the first lab. But I want to buy a microscope. I think it's kind of sad that the department doesn't own one, so part of the desire for a microscope is so that the other two archaeologists can use it in the future.

True character said...

Check this entrey about hyoid bone

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