Dissections are worthwhile but challenging science projects.
- Many young people love them.
- They offer good preparation for high school, college, and even medical school.
- You can learn far more from working with real specimens than you could learn from studying pictures in a book.
- Many people find them disgusting.
- Some object on ethical grounds.
The three examples below are great science projects because they are really cool, and they will raise fewer objections than most dissections.
After an owl eats a small animal, it spits up something like a cat’s hair ball. This “owl pellet” contains the hair, feathers, and bones of the animals it just ate.
There are many companies that collect owl pellets, sterilize them, and provide them for use in science projects.
Before starting the activity, study the names of the bones in teh human skeleton. Studying owl pellets becomes a good way to reinforce this.
It is very helpful to have a model human skeleton in the room during this activity for reference. It makes it much easier to point out the difference between (for instance) the radius and the ulna.
Give each pair of students:
- 2 Surgical Probes
- Paper plate
- Two paper cups
- Construction Paper
Here's what to do:
- Carefully remove all of the bones from the pellet.
- Students will often say, “We’ve found all the bones.” If I can't find another bone within ten seconds, I let them start gluing.
- They can either a) glue all the ribs in a pile labeled “ribs”, the vertebrae in a pile labeled “vertebrae,” etc, or b) arrange the bones to make a complete skeleton.gluing.
Squid are amazing! Before working with the squid, spend some time learning about these amazing animals.
You can also stream this excellent video.
You will need:
- Paper plate
- Surgical Probe
- Surgical scissors
- Frozen Squid
- Plastic gloves (or surgical gloves)
Thaw the squid in running water, and demonstrate the activity before allowing the learners to do it.
This site has good pictures of squid anatomy. (They use preserved specimen that have been dyed. Food-grade squid lack the colors.
Right-click to download hand-outs for the squid dissection.
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