It was one of those eewww! moments.
The students in Diane DeLoux's marine biology class at Palmer Ridge High School, were carefully dissecting a dead slimy floppy squid, examining tentacles and those hidden beaks that look like a baby bird's. The scent of squid tempura frying in a pan wafted over the room.
Seventeen-year-old Elissa Watson let out a blood-curdling scream. No, the sea creature that is a close relative of clams and snails, had not raised its homely head like a zombie come back to life.
What had happened was that a bug - and a fairly small one at that - had landed on Elissa's table.
"I'm scared of bugs," Watson explained sheepishly. She had just come from a physiology class at Arapaho Community College where they witnessed the dissection of a cadaver. "That didn't freak me out. I want to be a pathologist."
She regained her scientific cool and went back to drawing the squid parts in her notebook.
About 80 students are taking the semester long class. The activity teaches them how to keep scientific notes, and also gives them lab training that will be invaluable in college biology.
"They will better appreciate how the ocean ecosystem works, even if we are landlocked in Colorado," DeLoux explained.
There was excited chatter as the students identified parts of the cephalopods.
"I ate one of these at Carrabbas," volunteered Natasha Lovato, referring to calamari, probably the most well-known recipe for squid.
"They're sort of cute," said Jenny Slaughter.
"I love fish, I want to be a merman," Aidan Bewley, joked.
The came the high point of the lesson - writing with a squid's pen and ink.
DeLoux showed them how to extract the so-called "pen," the gristle-like last vestiges of a shell that ancestors of squids once possessed. Then then she showed them where the squid's ink sac is located, pierced it with the pen and squeezed a few drops of black liquid onto the pen. (Squids use the ink to hide from predators.)
"This is so cool," said JoyGowdy writing "JOY" in big letters in her notebook with the pen and squid ink.
"Now let's sketch the Mona Lisa," classmate Grayson Richey said.
After the dissections were done and hands washed, they crowded around Ikko Saito, who was cooking squid. Of course, none of the dissected material was used. Saito obtained her squid at an Asian market.
A fabulous cook, she is from Japan where squid is a common meal. Her children attend Lewis-Palmer School District 38 schools and she has done a lot of volunteer work. She's been the squid chef for a couple of years.
But first, she gave the kids a cautionary lesson in how different cultures have different tastes in foods, and how important sustainability is.
"These were living creatures, so we shouldn't waste this food. So be courageous and try some," she said, pointing to her tempura.
No one balked. The morsels quickly disappeared.
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