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Disgusted by in-class dissection? Virtual alternatives may help

Dissection day in biology class isn't for everyone.

Dissection day in biology class isn't for everyone. Credit: Handout

My seventh-grader is upset because he learned his science class will be dissecting a frog this year. He doesn't want to dissect an animal. Should I encourage him to do it because it might be a good experience, or support his objection? How do schools handle this?

"We certainly don't have students do anything that makes them uncomfortable, including dissection," says Aaron Factor, administrative coordinator of science and research for kindergarten through 12th grade in the Middle Country Central School District, which covers Centereach and Selden. "My suggestion to the parent would be to contact the school and express concern. I would be very surprised if the district isn't willing to come up with an alternative."

At Middle Country, some elective high school classes will dissect a seal, for instance, Factor says. If a student objects, which happens rarely, "We provide some other activity that would still allow the student to explore the content we would expect them to be responsible for."

Physical models or websites allow kids to do virtual dissections, for instance. Middle Country this year also has a new resource called zSpace, software that lets students put on 3-D glasses and use a stylus to dissect an organism on the screen, Factor says.

That said, there is a tremendous educational value to doing an actual dissection, especially for students who plan to go on to study medicine, Factor says.

Students can explore aberrations or damage involving internal organs and other anatomy, which leads to interesting classroom conversation, he says.

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