1. Knowing the anatomy and physiology is mandatory for the course; touching the pig is not. This is a real worry for some students that needs to be put to rest sooner than later. Virtual dissection is always an option for my students.
2. Dividing kids into groups based on comfort level makes for smoother lab time. I have students fill out a questionnaire based on 1-3 scale; 1 being ready to "fly solo" and 3 being "I need oxygen to get through it" option. Honestly though by week's end, they are almost all at the "I want to do this again" level.
3. Providing virtual dissection options helps for at home review. My favorite options for out of class study tools are the Pig Dissection App from Kids' Science and the Whitman College VPD and Biology Corner Pig Review websites.
4. Requiring a comprehensive assessment gives a defined goal. I set up a practical test where kids rotate through stations to identify structures, functions and systems of selected organs. This gives them the feel of a "gross anatomy" exam and encourages groups to look at other specimens besides the one they are using for their work.
5. Having a relaxed atmosphere with fresh air is a definite bonus! This may not apply to everyone, but it works for us (disclaimer: be ready for extra lab attire if the weather isn't ideal). We set up a tented area outside for dissections that allows kids to step away if needed, but also provides a great opportunity for all levels of science to be exposed to different organisms. Our life science students were studying worms, grasshoppers, squid, crayfish and frogs, while our advanced biology students were examining cats, sharks and rats, and our biology students were in the mix with fetal pigs. It is always enjoyable to see our 7th, 9th, 11th and 12th graders all together in one place learning science!