'Re-section' Not 'Dissection'
Having taught biology for several years, I was constantly bothered by the trouble of having to order expensive specimen for my students to dissect in their labs. The organic remains of the dissected pieces had to be treated as hazzardous materials and had to be disposed under rigorous conditions. Besides having to deal with the expense, bother and mess, I had to send permission slips home to parents and often counsel squeemish students and placate the various animal rights groups who opposed dissection. I was ready to do away with the dissection labs altogether until I discovered a better, less bothersome way of having students learn about the intricacies of the internal sturctures of animals; that of 're-section'.
Re-section involves the use of various non-living materials to simulate the actual organs and body parts of any animal. Students can use paper mache', rubber tubing, yarn, wire,etc., to take the place of veins, arteries, bones, muscle, cartilege,etc., found under a plastic-sheathed skin covering. I used modelling clay in the 're-sectomy' of worms and other soft-tissued animals. Students used the detailed diagrams from colourful illustrations found in various text books and from pictures found on the internet to reconstruct the 'innards' of frogs, fish, snakes and birds. In some cases, I dissected one 'real' specimen to use as a comparison of the 'virtual' one. Dealing with one specimen is a lot easier than working with many dozens.
Students had creative input when I assigned them re-section projects they could complete at home. even the more squeemish students became excited about learning the anatomy of various mammals. My anatomy and physiology classes were full of cardboard1 'human cadavers' hanging in back of the classroom and laboratory. Students often took their 'bodies' home with them to study before their exams. This often piqued the interest of their parentsand other students and h elped encourage my students to excell in their studies.
Re-section can be done in the most basic of classrooms and doesn't require elaborate preparations in laboratories. Materials don't require special storage space or refrigeration and can often be recycled or reused. Some of my students admitted they took their 'cadavers' off to college with them to help them review for their college level pre-medical courses.
For teachers who feel they don't have the time nor resources to collect materials to reconstruct the various organisms, I found that some scientific supply houses sell kits which allow students to put the bits and pieces of frogs and bivalves together like those of 3D puzzles.
Re-section is another great teaching tool which bilogy teachers can use to excite and inspire their students to explore and learn all about the mechanics of organisms and how the various parts all fit together to allow these wonderous life forms to function. Some parts can even be interchanged with other 'faux animals' to show organ relationships and provide discussions on replacing human oragans with the organs of other animals.
Re-section is a good way to introduce students from the early grades to the wonders of zoology and hopefully open up another creative teaching resource which will benefit the older students in years to come.