Friday, May 17, 2013

This Little Piggy...Dissection with a Twist of Technology and Splash of Tradition

One portion of a biology curriculum that always faces questions is dissection. There are feelings of extreme support and extreme disapproval and everything in between.  Fortunately, I teach at an institution that fully embraces the exposure of students to dissection.  My syllabus includes a week long dissection study of the fetal pig. We use this organism because it gives students the best small size model of what their bodies look like on the inside. The fact that they can actually hold a four chambered heart is fascinating to them. Seeing and feeling all that we talk about is so much better than just accepting that these tissues and structures exist.  Knowing that not all of my students share the same enthusiasm for this type of lab, I do make sure I have parameters and options for all levels of interest. 

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!
To learn more ways in which I am using technology in my classroom, follow me on Twitter @eglassman757.

No comments:

Post a Comment