Monday, November 16, 2015

Hearts and Minds (warning: contains graphic dissection images)

We had an excellent opportunity to really get deep into the biology of the body with the 5th and 6th graders this week.  Thanks to Knight's Market here in Ann Arbor, I was able to procure three sets of real lamb hearts and lungs for the kids to explore. Photographs and diagrams of organs are valuable teaching tools, but it is a true experience to be able to examine the real thing, and this was reflected in the excitement and enthusiasm of the students!  We were able to take an in depth look at the structure of the lungs, dissecting up the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles, right up to the tiny alveoli where gas exchange takes place, and we used an aquarium pump to partially inflate one of the lungs.  The lung tissue is very light and ethereal, and was particularly fascinating to the students.  We were able to contrast this with the powerful heart muscle, and to explore all of the valves and chambers of the heart as well.  I was very proud of how the students handled this laboratory.  They were very professional in their approach to the dissection, including the few who abstained and chose to do some online studies instead.  (This is a completely voluntary dissection, and no one had to participate who didn't feel comfortable doing so).  It was an up close encounter that the students are unlikely to forget, and I hope to do some additional dissections in upcoming units!

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