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. It is quite difficult for dissection alternatives, including diagrams, 3D models, and videos, to fully replicate a real, hands-on dissection. When doing animal dissections, students are given opportunities to study and explore the complexities of internal anatomy in memorable, tangible, and eye-opening ways.
Seeing the intricacies of an animal's organs and inner workings helps them develop a deeper understanding of and respect for life and the natural world. Animal dissections are widely used for important educational purposes; Anatomy, Physiology, and Zoology classes use animal dissections as part of their curriculum.
Benefits to Dissecting Animals
Animal dissections are beneficial in a number of ways. One of their greatest benefits is the way in which they boost comprehension and understanding! Whether you are an educator in a home or in a classroom, one of your greatest goals, and challenges, is to see your students grasp the concepts they're studying; there's nothing more rewarding than seeing them experience that "ah-hah!" moment. When it comes to biological studies, dissection can make these moments happen more frequently! Studies have shown that students who tangibly “experience” science using their hands understand concepts more fully.
Hands-on science experiences, like animal dissections, activate sensory and motor-related parts of the brain. Because of this, students are able to remember and understand complex concepts more deeply and longer-term. Studying some animal anatomy can even give students a better understanding of human anatomy. One example of this is a cow's eye! Because the functionalities and parts of a cow eye are similar to that of a human eye, students dissecting a cow eye can learn so much about the very eyes they are observing and exploring with.
Not only do animal dissections support and enhance student comprehension, but they are also memorable learning experiences. When students dissect an animal, they are using many of their senses, including sight, touch, smell, and hearing. A multi-sensory activity, such as dissection, is much more memorable than a single-sense one (which far too many learning experiences happen to be). As students activate many of their senses while dissecting an animal, their memory (or recall) increases, which helps boost their overall academic performance. Students who pursue careers in biology (including researchers, medical doctors, and teachers) will benefit from remembering dissection details.
Incorporating activities into your lesson plans is an important thing to do as an educator. Doing an activity, like an animal dissection, brings some FUN into the home or classroom, encourages student participation, and teaches important life concepts.
While it may seem complex, intimidating, or difficult to do, incorporating dissections into your lesson plans is actually pretty easy to do! They fit well into content units, grade and age curriculum, or individual lab projects. With the proper tools and guidance, dissecting an animal is a surprisingly doable and eye-opening learning experience. Use our step-by-step, photographic dissection guides to help you every step of the way! If you'd like to receive a dissection specimen, a dissection guide, and the essential dissection tools all in one, browse our selection of dissection kits and find the perfect one(s) for you.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, animal dissections can help students develop a deeper respect for the complexities of life and the natural world. Studying an animal’s internal anatomy reveals so much about the specific and amazing ways in which they move, eat, reproduce, regulate their functions, and more!
Recent Animal Dissection Improvements
Remember that icky, overpowering smell from your middle school, high-school, or college life science dissection? It's wasn't the specimens that smelled bad; that foul smell actually came from a chemical preservative called formaldehyde. The smell of 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 dissection specimens. 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 specimens!
We understand that humane practices are a concern for many when it comes to dissection. It is important for us to communicate that source most of our dissection specimens from companies in the United States. Because of this, most of our suppliers are subject to inspections and compliance orders from the US Department of Agriculture, under the Animal Welfare Act.
In addition, many of the animals used for educational dissections are often the byproducts of other industries. For example, fetal pigs come from pork manufacturers and skinned minks come from fur ranches. Rather than sending the bodies of these animals to the landfill, suppliers use them for educational purposes.
Small Animal Dissections
Ordering small animal specimens for your dissections is an affordable choice. These specimens save you money, arrive at your door quickly, take up less room in storage, and require less working space in the lab!
Because small animals have shorter life cycles and reproduce more quickly than large animals, their anatomies are more simple and less "human-like." If you or your students are new to dissection, we highly recommend exploring the internal anatomies of smaller animals before diving into the dissection of larger ones. Small specimens are perfect for first-time dissections!
For the slightly more experienced dissection explorers, larger animals are a great way to go. These animals have more complex organs and internal anatomies, making them perfect for more advanced biological studies. Plus, some of their organs (i.e. a cow's eye) are very similar to ours! Finding anatomical similarities helps enhance a student's comprehension and tangible application.
Another benefit of dissecting a larger animal is greater visibility! Larger animals have larger organs, making it easier for students see the inner workings of their anatomy.
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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