In a week of STEM at Franklin Avenue Elementary School, students in Annalise Eak and Jean Brown’s fourth grade classrooms were joined by Professor Jason Ramsay of Westfield State University’s biology department to continue their Project Lead the Way unit on organisms, structure and function.

Ramsay will be visiting the class three times during the unit as their expert on biology. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

During his first visit, Ramsay participated as an expert panelist for students presenting a prosthetic they built for an injured animal within a Project Lead the Way module on the structure and function of plants and animals.

Eak and Brown said that Ramsay was able to give students feedback on their designs and ask questions to push their thinking. He showed them how real-life animals’ bodies are structured and function, and how some human-built items mimic the structure and function of animals, such as having the students test two different wings with the same function but different structure.

The second visit, which happened on Jan. 18, was all about sharks, a specialty of Ramsay’s, specifically the evolutionary functional morphology and biomechanics of sharks, skates and rays.

Students studied the structures of sharks, their functions, and their senses, helped by real preserved shark parts brought by Ramsay that students were able to dissect and see firsthand to study their structure and function.

Calling the class outside and holding up the tail of a thresher shark, which was taller than him, Ramsay talked about how the thresher shark uses its tail to catch fish, knocking out four or five at a time. He told them thresher sharks are in Cape Cod during the summer and go south during the winter.

In his next visit, Ramsay will bring live sea creatures for students to observe and explore.

Their teachers said the fourth graders were thrilled to learn from a real scientist.

“When you combine a high-quality, real-world, hands-on curriculum with an industry professional, you create experiences that students will remember forever while inspiring them to see themselves as scientists and engineers (or even biologists),” said Lindsey Ayers, STEM coach for pre-kindergarten through grade 4.