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Every kid that takes biology is going to have to at some point participate in the dreaded dissection lab. Today was my turn. The tools are placed out on the table, the tray is put in front of you, and the dead thing you’re going to be dissecting is plunked down in the middle of the tray. You get ready to learn a thing or two about…psychology?

The girl who I was partnered with started to look a little sick as soon as the worm was put on the table. I immediately moved away. If she was going to throw up, she could do it on someone else. We began cutting open the worm with the scalpel when to my surprise, the girl started laughing. Once everything was pinned down properly, she was still laughing. Even when we were poking around in there looking at the organs and things with the tweezers, the laughter did not stop. And when the worm started oozing something the laughter became hysterical. I guess that was her way of dealing with the grossness of it all. Maybe she was crying on the inside.

The girl sitting in front of us responded in the complete opposite way. As soon as it was announced we’d be dissecting today she yelled, “YES! This is what I take biology for!” And the rest of the class just kind of stared at her. Every time she would make an incision in the worm with the scalpel or take out a piece of something with the tweezers she would smile, or nod, or make an appreciative sound. Her favorite part was when we started analyzing its guts.  When we were finished, she asked if she could take the worm home with her. It took me a second to realize she was joking.

Then the guys, of course, had to act all silly and crack jokes about everything the whole time, pretending they didn’t care at all that some worm juice just squirted into their face, or that they had to cut open right next to the main blood vessel. Some of them refused to wear gloves just to prove their manhood I guess, and others made fun of the people that were acting squeamish. Really though, none of the guys enjoyed it either. They just had to put it on or they’d look like a bunch of wimps.

I, on the other hand, didn’t react to it like any of these people. I cut open the worm, looked around at its insides, drew my diagram, and literally washed my hands of the whole affair while the one girl continued laughing, the other continued loudly appreciating the worm’s digestive system, and the guys continued to act silly instead of just getting it done.

What I really got from today’s dissection was a look into the complex minds of people and a realization that you never know how you’re going to react to something until it happens. I wonder what’s going to happen next week when we cut open some crayfish…

Alternatives to the "Mess and Stress" of Live Dissections: 

Cow Eye DissectionWith additional links to frog and perch dissections.

Earthworm Dissection

Pigeon Dissection PowerPoint

Marine Biology Virtual DissectionsResources for sharks, squids, starfish, etc.

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Science Studies Weekly - Physical Science

A weekly series of physical science lessons for grades 6 - 8, each issue includes current events, biographical spotlights, labs with experiments that reinforce the concept being taught, articles about noteworthy technology, and crossword puzzles. 

Download the Issues:

Week 1 - Scientific Inquiry An overview of scientific inquiry, including formulating questions, forming hypotheses and carrying out experiments.

Week 2 - Properties of Matter Explores the physical and chemical properties of matter.

Week 3 - Changing Matter  Discusses how matter can be changed from one state to another and how it can be combined physically or chemically.

Week 4 - Force  Explores both contact and non-contact forces; discusses inertia and weightlessness in space.

Week 5 - Motion  Discusses the motion of objects, including speed, velocity and acceleration.

Week 6 - Energy  Explores both kinetic and potential energy, as well as forms of energy including heat, light, electrical, chemical and nuclear.

Week 7 - Energy Transformation Examines ways energy is transformed from one form to another and the flow of energy in systems; discusses the laws of thermodynamics.

Week 8 - Light and Sound  Explores light and sound energy and describes characteristics of waves.

Week 9 - Machines  Discusses both simple and compound machines and how machines help people do work.

Week 10 - Engineering Explores design, invention and innovation; discusses scale and models.