I chose to research a very different topic for this post- dissecting. I can remember dissecting a few things when I was in school. In middle school, we dissected a worm and a frog. In high school biology, we dissected a mouse. Of course, all of these animals were dead before we touched them. However, I can remember there were a lot of mixed feelings about dissecting when I was in school so I decided to look into it.
Although we may have been a bit immature for the activity in middle school, I can remember dissecting all three of these animals. We explored the different body parts, connected them to biology (the human body when possible), and spent weeks on these units. Although I thought it was disgusting to cut apart a dead mouse and they did smell REALLY bad after about 3 days, it was a great lesson! I can remember it yet today.
Yet, some parents had an issue with it. Some students didn't want to participate so they could write a paper as an alternative assignment. Some people argued that it was animal cruelty. Buying these animals for dissection can get expensive. I guess there are endless reasons as to why a parent may not want their child exploring the inside of a frog with his/her fingers. So then what? Don't allow the child to participate?
I came across this website- http://www.kidzworld.com/article/3946-dissecting-virtual-dissection - which provided an alternative way of dissecting. Virtual dissection! With virtual dissection, everything is done on a computer, through worksheets, videos, and online activities. Dissection is required as a unit for most schools in the state; this is a great, cost-effective way for ALL students to explore science.
Dissecting can be a difficult area in your classroom. I would suggest sending a letter home to parents before the unit, letting them know that it is coming up. See how parents and students react; based on these reactions, the teacher can make the decision to dissect the animals or stick with virtual dissection. In my opinion, it's too bad. I think dissecting can be very valuable; a lot can be learned from doing a hands-on activity like this. However, it's important to respect student's and parent's opinions.