See why animal dissection labs are irreplaceable for teaching students about anatomy. Get tips on planning a dissection. Plus, find step-by-step photographic instructions on dissecting a fetal pig and a sheep's heart.
With a little help from us, your home or laboratory dissections can be effective, engaging, and enjoyable!
Why Conduct an Animal Dissection?
Animal dissections are incredibly valuable. There is no dissection alternative, including diagrams, 3D models, and videos, that can replicate a real, hands-on dissection. By dissecting an animal, we can see both the simple and complex organs of their anatomy--intact. Anatomy, Physiology, and Zoology classes use animal dissections as part of their curriculum.
Benefits to Dissecting Animals
Animal dissections have multiple benefits. First, dissecting an animal boosts understanding. Studies have shown that students who “experience” science using their hands understand concepts better. Hands-on science activates sensory and motor-related parts of the brain. Studying animal anatomy can even give students a better understanding of human anatomy. For example, the functionalities and parts of a cow eye are similar to that of a human eye!
Second, animal dissections are memorable. That’s because they use our senses. Which ones? Sight primarily. They also use our sense of hearing and smell. Combined, students will find it easier to remember a multi-sensory activity than a single-sense one. Memory, or recall, boosts academic performance. Students who pursue careers in biology (including researchers, medical doctors, and teachers) will be helped by remembering dissection details.
Third, dissecting is an activity. The student either participates or doesn’t; the finished project speaks for itself! In contrast, measuring student participation in passive learning formats, like lectures, is harder.
Fourth, it’s easy to incorporate dissections into lesson plans. They fit well into content units, grade and age curriculum, or individual lab projects. You can make projects easier or more challenging with help from the dissection guides that accompany all of our specimens. Our dissection kits come with everything you need, including tools, to complete a project.
Fifth, animal dissections can develop in students a deeper respect for the complexities of life and the natural world. An animal’s internal organs reveal clues about how they move, eat, reproduce, and regulate their functions.
Recent Animal Dissection Improvements
Remember that overpowering smell from your middle school, high school, or college life science lab? That was the fault of formaldehyde, a chemical preservative. Formaldehyde in classroom dissections probably turned more than a few students away from studying biology further!
Fortunately, most of our animal suppliers use formalin to embalm their products. Formalin is a colorless and (mostly) odorless solution of formaldehyde in water. You’ll notice that many customer reviews mention the “no-smell” smell of our dissection animals.
We source most of our animals from companies in the United States. That means, most of our suppliers are subject to inspections and compliance orders from the US Department of Agriculture, under the Animal Welfare Act.
Animals used for dissection are often the byproducts of other industries. For example, fetal pigs come from pork manufacturers. Skinned minks come from fur ranches. The bodies of these animals would be sent to the landfill otherwise.
Small Animal Dissections
Small animals make dissection laboratories more affordable. Specimens cost less. They ship quickly. They take up less room in storage and require less working space in the lab.
Small animals reproduce quicker than larger ones. Their life cycles are shorter. Their anatomies are simpler and less "human." We recommend dissecting smaller animals first, before attempting a dissection with a larger animal.
Larger animals have more complex organs. Some of their organs, like a cow’s eye, are very similar to our organs. Because of their size, we can see the inner workings of the anatomy more easily in large animals.
Whether you're a homeschool parent, a Biology teacher, or any other kind of science educator, consider how valuable, memorable, and doable animal dissection can be when mapping out your Biology lesson plans. You'll never regret opening curious eyes to a whole new world of discovery and exploration!
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