Teacher Talk: Middle School Students Dissect Cow Eyes

July 1, 2015

Cow Eye DissectionYou can learn a lot from a digital dissection. The programs are getting better and better. Some allow you to watch a video about a structural adaptation, or to take a quiz about the anatomy and physiology of the organism. For units about cellular organization and anatomy, I have often used a digital frog dissection app on the iPads, and students have loved it. They really can learn a lot. However, iPad specimens are also all exactly the same and make identifying anatomy very easy. Additionally, with all of the high tech features on an iPad, it cannot provide the “Ick Factor” and awe of a wet dissection. The ick makes it stick.

For this year’s 8th grade class investigation of anatomy and disease, I wanted the awe, the “ick” and the difficulty of a wet dissection. 8th grade students finish the school year with disease investigation and homeostasis in the human body. They had created researched based posters about the anatomy and diseases of the human eye, and to complete the investigation we undertook a wet dissection of cow eyes.

Cow Eye DissectionI asked Dr. Elizabeth B. Miquel, a local veterinarian, to come assist us both for her expertise and also to connect the material to a real career in science. It was a great experience for everyone involved. The anatomy of the eye really is awe inspiring – from the hard lens to jelly like Vitreous Humor – each piece was connected to a disease that the students had investigated and it really made those conditions real for the students. The way that a foggy lens causes cataracts and the ease with which a retina can detach were on full display for the students. It becomes easier to appreciate how durable the Sclera is when one attempts to penetrate it with a scalpel.

So there it is… the activity was full of awe and difficulty. But why the “ick”? Well, the ick makes it stick. A wet dissection is a multiple sensory experience, and the icky sights, sounds, smells and textures really make the anatomy memorable for the students.

Mark Pendergrass
Middle School Science Teacher

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