I remember dissecting a few things in middle school and a few in High School, nothing emotionally difficult like a cat or anything, mostly worms and toads. I don’t remember finding the insides anything like the diagram said I should. I do remember finding a small crawfish in my toad’s stomach. Now that I am all grown up and homeschooling my children, I have found innumerable things to dissect without the horrible smell of formaldehyde. To date we have dissected pig, rabbit, chicken, rat (for mummification process during Egyptian study. If we do it again I will post about it. You can email me if you have questions), fish, and assorted parts like hearts and lungs. Many of these dissections were actually diversions during/after the butchering of our or of our family/friends livestock. Here at our place we have chickens and goats (we have not yet butchered any of our own goats, they are dairy goats). My sister has chickens, goats, and rabbits and my friend has raised pigs and cows for the freezer.
Back to the post at hand – Most recently my sister’s farm has raised and butchered a pair of young goats. No, goat prepared well is not gamey, it is delicious. Anyway, although I was unable to be there to identify and explore all the organs with the children, my sister did save the hearts for us. Not it is not a gross project it is all clean and even refrigerated. There are some finer grocery stores that carry things like beef hearts, although they are often quartered or at least halved taking away the ability to really explore all the structures. Chicken hearts are too small for children to really see and understand all parts.
Well, here are some pictures of our budding scientists learning about the parts of a heart (I printed work sheets for them to label, sadly they are human heart worksheets and these are goat hearts, but this is grade school dissections not medical school), how they work, and later taste (cooked, duh. Yes, heart meat is edible and more than likely it is something you have eaten even without knowing it. I prepared our taste by sautéing thin slices in a little olive oil. 10 out of 11 children liked it.
Oh, another odd observation, girls like dissection. Yes, they tend to squeal yuck, gross, or no way, until they are actually working when an incredible transformation takes place, they really get into it. This includes mommies who begin the day telling me ”no way, I’ll sit far away and you help the kids with it” only toi turn around and find that same mommy up to her elbows in critter. Trust me even the most hardened skeptic can be transformed into a scientist, just ask my friend Mara. Heeheehee Boys, however, come running at the idea, but seem to loose interest very quickly. Joshua, like his mom (me), and Paul seem to enjoy the exploration and hang in a bit longer.