The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Knee Operation: Students take virtual field trip

Written by David Green.


A scalpel slices open the skin covering the knee. Small rakes are inserted to hold tissue out of the way and bare the arthritic bones.

knee-crowd-2 Bone saws whirr into action to shape the femur and the tibia. A mallet pounds metal replacement parts into position. A plastic kneecap is put in place. The skin is sewn back together.

In 90 minutes time, an 81-year-old patient at Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus had a new knee—and a classroom of Morenci Area High School students watched the entire process, and even asked a few questions.

Morenci science teacher Kerry Nieman describes the program as a virtual field trip. No time lost in traveling. No transportation costs. No scrubbing up before surgery.

In reality, of course, her science class would never have been admitted into the operating room, nor would any of the other half-dozen participating classes from as far away as Los Angeles.

The Surgical Suite program is arranged by the COSI science museum and marks the first videoconferencing experience for Morenci students. A camera in the operating room broadcasts the entire procedure as it happens.

Signing up for Surgical Suite brings more than the surgery experience, Mrs. Nieman explained. Students prepared by working through pre-surgery activities suggested in a kit from COSI. This included the chance to view X-rays and try out the animated surgery at where the user drags tools around a computer screen, and operates a saw.

“The kids loved it,” Mrs. Nieman said. “It gave them a clue about what they would see in the operating room. It was a nicely put-together package.”

Still, even that didn’t quite prepare students for actual surgery, with bones protruding and a hammer flailing. There was some squirming in the seat when the leg was cut open and the incision was spread wide.

Shortly after the incision was made, head surgeon Dr. Politi began fielding questions from students in the participating schools. Morenci’s Jill Pfund asked about restrictions the patient would face after surgery. Someone at another school asked about recovery time.

Dr. Politi was engaged in conversation throughout the entire process, except when the sound of the bone saw prohibited talk.

Students learned that Medicare would pay about $12,000 for knee replacement; that early attempts used glass replacement pieces; that the invention of bone cement advanced the process greatly; that it’s not athletic activity that leads to knee problems, but injuries suffered during competition.

When Maddie Green asked what could be done to prevent the need for knee surgery, Dr. Politi said to “pick your parents well.” Genetics seem to play a role, he said, but obesity can also lead to joints wearing out.

Information on the project web site also lists lack of exercise leading to muscle weakness as a cause of osteoarthritis. Caffeine from soft drinks and coffee can lead to the weakening of bones.

When the surgical process was complete, operating room personnel spoke briefly about their jobs and schooling required. Creating an awareness of health care careers is an integral part of the program, and each participating school classroom is polled before and after surgery to determine an interest in medical work.

Fifteen of Morenci’s 22 students indicated an interest. Mrs. Nieman has heard students talk about working as physician assistants, EMTs, physical therapists, dental hygienists and nurses.

Post-surgery classroom activities would follow in the next few days, including an exercise to show how an improperly fit knee replacement might feel. Another points out how bacteria on hands shows up under an ultraviolet light.

Those would come later. For now, surgery had ended and it was time to leave the operating room and eat lunch.

“It didn’t gross me out,” Melissa McDowell said to another student. “I could have eaten lunch and watched it.”

Future possibilities 

Morenci’s first videoconferencing experience is the result of work by the district’s technology team—representatives from each building who have explored ways to use interactive television in the classroom.

knee-camera For now, the district is borrowing equipment from the Lenawee Intermediate School District, but technology director Hilda Jones has the purchase order ready to go for Morenci to buy its own camera to link local classrooms with a distant facility.

“It gives us the opportunity to have classroom interaction anywhere in the world,” superintendent Kyle Griffith said.

He sees opportunities at every grade level and intends to make the package a traveling K-12 unit.

Jones said that all three of Morenci’s school buildings are wired with fiber optic lines and ready for videoconferencing.

Science teacher Kerry Nieman was pleased with how the long-distance learning experience went last week.

“Now I got to see exactly how it works and I think it’s going to be a great learning tool for the district,” she said.

She’s making arrangements for a fingerprinting unit to be used by the Math and Science Club, and she’s also looking at a program called “Mapping the Brain.”

Some districts use videoconferencing to expand their curriculum, Griffith said. A smaller district such as Britton might not have enough students to form an AP English class, for example, but could participate in the class taught in Morenci. Morenci students could take advantage of classes taught in Adrian or Tecumseh.

“I’m not in a rush to go in that direction,” Griffith said. “I like where we’re at now. We want to get comfortable with it first, then branch off into other areas.”

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