Dissections carry big bills

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Sheep brains, pig kidneys and cow eyes might sound like the ingredients to a witch's brew or dinner at a really exotic restaurant.

But they are just a few of the things students will dissect in Richmond County science classes in a school year.

"Of course, you can't dissect humans, so you try to pick things that are similarly laid out," science coordinator Stacy Mabray said. "Strangely, there's actually a catalog you look through to pick things."

Previously, science classes culminated with a single dissection project, but now the emphasis is on hands-on learning throughout the school year, Ms. Mabray said.

Ordering "consumable" supplies, such as the biology and anatomy specimens, adds up. Richmond County spent $16,500 on specimens last school year.

"There is a district expectation for all grade levels for hands-on laboratory experiences," she said. "In high school, we ask that schools do a minimum of nine lab experiences per nine weeks. That estimates roughly to be about 20 percent of instructional time focused on hands-on experiences."

The investment pays off, said Yolanda Jones, a science teacher at Cross Creek High School. The first question students ask each year is when will they be dissecting, pointing to an increase in test scores and motivation.

"Student absences are very low those days," Ms. Jones said. "When you have seniors taking science and it's not required, that speaks volumes."

It's amazing to see the light bulbs go off inside their heads when cutting into a specimen, she said.

Senior Brandon Bouchard, 17, sliced into an earthworm Monday. Taking a break from examining the worm's insides, he said he learns more from dissecting than from reading a book, though he acknowledges it is a little gross.

"If you cut it wrong, it squirts, and you don't know which direction it's going to squirt," he said.

The experience of dissecting something will stick with students for a lifetime, Ms. Jones said.

"Science is about doing, not viewing," she said. "The more they are able to do, the more they are able to understand."

But it comes with a cost.

Ms. Jones added up the expenses and figured it cost $1,140 for specimens for one of Cross Creek's four anatomy classes.

"People don't really think about what goes into a lab," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.


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