Dissecting a frog is a middle-school rite of passage, reports Will Huntsberry on NPR.
At Baltimore’s Patterson Park Public Charter School, Rob Glotfelty’s life sciences lab contains a stack of “dead frogs, vacuum-sealed and piled five high,” writes Huntsberry. “Once those seals are broken, these leopard frogs emit a pungent odor.” And they’re slimy.
In 1987, a 15-year-old California refused to dissect a frog in her biology class and took her case to court. California and nine other states require that students be given an alternative to dissecting a real animal.
Glotfelty uses computers to help his seventh-grade students understand anatomical theory. But they look forward to dissection, he says. It’s the real deal.
“There’s something visceral and important about the real thing,” says David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. “What does this particular organ feel like? How stiff is it? Is it compressible?”
Glotfelty’s students have cut open an earthworm, and later a chicken wing. Frogs are a step up. The teacher reminds the class what they’re studying. Not frogs. Humans.
Taylor Smith says she doesn’t like science. She thought cutting into an animal would make her throw up.
Instead, she uses tiny scissors to cut through the frog’s collarbone. Taylor and her lab partners lay the organs on a sheet of paper. “I’m not a chicken anymore,” she says. “I like this.”
“The smell was awful, but it was worth it,” says Melissa Torres-Gutierrez.