Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Opinions about Dissecting??

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.


  1. Emily-

    I also know that if your school has SMARTBoards, there is a science lesson (or unit) on dissecting and it is supposedly as good as the real thing. I've not seen it being taught, but I have seen it listed in the SMARTBoard content on their websites.

    It's a toss up really as to what you want to do in your class and are comfortable teaching/dissecting. To each their own, but sending parent letters home and informing parents that if you are doing this will let parents perhaps understand why you are doing it and if not, then explore the option of your website or the SMARTBoard one (if you can).

  2. Emily,

    As I was reading your post I swear it could have been written by me. Everything you said made perfect sense, and your comment about it being "too bad" that disection isn't used in every science classroom is spot on. I can't imagine any student pursuing a career in the field of medicine and not having the experience of disecting an animal. I know they'll do this in their college courses, but it's a shame they can't practice this skill sooner. I've disected all kinds of animals, including viewing a disected human cadaver for a college anatomy/physiology course. It was something I'll never forget.

    One final point...you're right to say it's important to respect the student and parent's wishes. They might have strong moral or religous objections to the practice.

  3. Great advice, Emily, to send a letter pre-dissection.

    This is one of those subjects, that I think the technology, no matter how good it is, does not hold a candle to the real thing. You have to see the size comparisons, color changes, etc. I am an extreme animal lover, and I get the point. In a college biology class we dissected cats, yes cats! I am an owner of four currently, so this could have been a sensitive issue for me. I understood that these cats were used in the of science and were killed in the most humane way possible.

  4. I think virtual dissection is an ok method. It's quick, easy, inexpensive, and informative. However, I think we are starting to lose the real feel for science when going into the virtual world. Let's take geology for example. We can look at rock beds on the computer, but I think it is more of an impact to go and see one for myself. It might be good to offer the virtual dissection for those that have a huge problem with it, but I don't think we should eliminate it all together. We still need to have "authentic" science.

  5. I agree with Brandon. We need to have real hands on science. Virtual dissection is a comparable experience to watching one of the "cop shows" that depicts a forensic scientist. The shows depict a forensic scientist as someone who starts to work on a dead body and uncovers what happened. I grew up in the country so we had many pets and many pests. After a few days it was pretty easy to find a dead animal and that is a component of dissecting that I still remember today - the smell. With mail order dissecting specimens, the smell is formaldahide, and not decomposition, but the real experience still applies. Students that are looking are going into a field of study that involves true dissection needs to have the experience of working with a real creature. The topic of dissection and the points that were brought out were very good in the blog. I was not aware of virtual dissection until I read this post. Parental and moral concerns are key points to consider but I believe that students need the authentic experience whenever possible.

  6. This is an awesome idea! I was one of those kids that felt absolutely nauseous while dissecting. The teacher would usually put me in the hall and I would sit out there until everyone was finished. Being able to virtually dissect is way to get everyone involved the classroom and it certainly creates less mess!

  7. I really enjoyed this post; mostly because I had never really considered all of the "implications" of dissection in a science classroom. As a student, dissecting was my favorite part of a unit- I always stayed after to learn more and look at different animals. But on the other hand, I completely understand how dissection could upset students and families, and also raise issues due to the costs. While the virtual dissections seem to be an alternative, I do have to agree with the others that students would be missing out on learning experiences by not participating in hands-on dissections. Good points and ideas to consider...thank you!