February 21, 2012

Dissecting Frogs

Schools are swapping out "real" dissections with virtual ones.

Jessica: It can be slimy, smelly and a bit slippery. Yet for many, dissecting a frog in science class is a rite of passage.

“Everyone has done it before us and they’ve talked about it and it’s something you’re excited about and look forward to do.”

Jessica: But could this tradition be in danger? Well, frogs are a type of amphibian and nearly one third of amphibians are on the verge of extinction. That is one of the reasons why organizations like Save the Frogs have created a virtual program that allows students to dissect frogs online. But can virtual dissections replace the real thing?

To find out if students prefer real or virtual dissections, we decided to conduct our own Channel One experiment. We went to St. Clare’s Middle School in Staten Island and met up with science teacher Mary Lee.

How many years have you been doing hands on dissections?

Ms. Lee: Twelve years in the classroom.

Jessica: Twelve years! So, why are you considering changing that?

Ms. Lee:  A few times students have problems with the dissection and sometimes they ask me if they’re hurting the animals. But on the other hand, the students who get involved in dissection, many of them go on into the medical fields. study to become doctor. I feel we are helping humankind in a way if we can get a couple of good surgeons out of the crop of students.

Jessica: Cost is also a factor.

If you did virtual dissections — everything you did was virtual — how much money would you save?

Ms. Lee: We would save hundreds — close to $500 to $1000 I spend every year in real dissections. So, once you have program in place and you buy them and the laptops and tech, that’s a lot of money to save because that’s a one-time cost you never have to pay it again.

Jessica: For our experiment, we asked Ms. Lee’s 8th grade class to test out a virtual frog dissection program. Last year, this class dissected real frogs.

This will be the deciding factor. This class our experiment! That’s it. We’re doing an experiment, with or without dissection. It’s a scientific method and the students are part of it.

Ms. Lee: Great! Very exciting!”

Jessica: We’re doing a virtual dissection today of the frog. You are our experimental group. We’re trying to see if virtual dissection should be done in place of real. Let the virtual dissections begin!

“We’re taking out all the parts of the circulatory system and learning about what they do. When we put them back, they’ll give us hints. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘put heart back’ but sometime they say, ‘the part of the system with three chambers.’ That’s the heart, so you put that back.”

“I personally prefer actual dissection because it’s more hands-on and it’s more fun. But this, you learn a lot more than with real dissections.”

Jessica: Jonathan Finazzo was a big fan of the virtual program.

Jonathan Finazzo: If you do it virtually, you’re not killing frogs and you learn much more.”

Jessica: Most students we talked to repeated the same thing. They learned more about organs and the frog’s systems from the virtual dissection because it was interactive. But if they had to choose, they would rather do the real thing.

Raise your hand if you prefer virtual dissection.

Eleven of you.

Now raise your hand if you prefer hands on real dissections.

Twenty-five of you guys like the hands-on dissections and eleven of you like the virtual.

How many would like to do both? The entire class! So, I think you have your answer.

So, are you going to keep the hands-on dissection?

Ms. Lee: Based on what they’re telling me, I say yes. I think I have to continue it. I feel like a real scientist right now experimenting with my children.

Jessica: Experimenting with Channel One!

Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.


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