Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dissection Resources

As a former middle grades science teacher, I loved introducing kids to the wonderful world of hands-on dissection experiences. However, I also know that a number of students and parents sometimes object to dissecting animals, organs, etc., in the classroom regardless of how valuable these actual experiences are to the student and developing their understanding of anatomy & physiology. (For an overview of many of the reasons parents and students cite in their objections to classroom dissections, see Save The Frogs.) Unfortunately, recent budget crunches have also made a number of science teachers throughout Illinois to take a scalpel to their classroom expenditures instead of their specimens.

So, regardless of which side of the dissection issue you may lean toward, virtual dissection experiences may offer solutions that could help your classroom science activities. A number of online resources exist to offer teachers and students low-cost alternatives to tried-and-true classroom dissection activities. Here are but a few:
  • KidWings Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection: A great way to introduce kids at earlier grades to dissection procedures and identify bone structures, make hypotheses about habitats, and so on. This is by far one of my favorite digital resources! (My previous post about this site perennially gets lots of hits!)
  • Froguts: I LOVE THIS ON A SMART BOARD! In fact, an older version of this comes with SMART Notebook software and would work nicely to guide students during a whole-class step-by-step dissection. The newer browser-based demo now offers 3-D rotations of the frog as well. Froguts also offers a subscription-based service that opens up a school's curriculum to other virtual animal and plant dissections, like starfish, squid, fetal pig, peas and more!
  • Virtual Fetal Pig Dissection from Whitman College (Washington): This browser-based collection of links and Web pages takes students through the steps of dissecting a fetal pig, more common at the high school levels.
  • McGraw Hill Higher Ed contains several links to virtual dissections, including a virtual frog dissection and a virtual earthworm dissection. While these appear a bit more simplistic at first look, they contain a lot of great step-by-step information for kids, and the technology doesn't substitute for on-site guidance from a teacher and hands-on experience by the student. It is probably better suited as a site to help supplement classroom instruction rather than a complete alternative.
  • ThinkQuest Salmon Dissection Game: Not sure how much of a "game" this really is, but it is a neat way to work through a fish dissection experience in a virtual environment or to lead a classroom demonstration or whole-class dissection activity.
Free Software Alert: Schools who choose to do so can earn a virtual dissection software package (nearly $900) for free from Save The Frogs, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Digital Frog International, by signing a contract end all animal dissections for 5 years. If that fits in with your school's philosophies and curriculum and your professional point-of-view on the issue, it's hard to beat that price!

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