You may already have students in your class who are interested in pursuing health science careers. For other students, their interest in this field may be piqued by the activities in your classroom, such as animal dissection. You can nurture this interest by explaining how the knowledge of anatomy they’re gaining connects to the work they’ll do in future health science careers.
Start by explaining that understanding musculature, how our body systems function, and how our systems coordinate is important for anyone in the health science field. Doctors and researchers gain this knowledge by examining both living and non-living specimens and applying and practicing what they learned through books or lectures.
Dissecting non-living specimens offers an inside look and feel at anatomy that can’t be replicated by observation and illustrations alone. Ultimately, the knowledge medical professionals gain helps them improve the care and treatment of animals and people.
What type of health science careers can benefit from dissection?
There are countless careers in the medical field that are rooted in anatomy studies, including the following:
- Registered nurse
- Health educator
- Patient care advocate
- Surgical technician
- Physical therapist
- Pharmacy technician
- Medical assistant
- Medical lab technician
- Healthcare social worker
- Veterinarian or veterinary technician
Beyond healthcare roles, students may become interested in medicine and drug industries, fitness, or even animal rights and protection. Although the duties of each of these professions may vary, each one of them requires a deep understanding of how body systems function, which can be gained through performing dissections.
How can students apply dissection skills to future healthcare careers?
There are multiple experiences students can gain now in your classroom that will set them up for future success in college and careers.
- They can learn when stitches may be needed and learn how to provide them.
- They can experience what it might take to perform a surgery while working with real tissue, bones, and muscles.
- They can study and learn abnormal conditions based on organ analysis.
- They can learn about medical research and the treatment of animals, such as where medical specimens come from and why they are used for educational purposes.
Try these four activities to help your students start exploring the foundations of a career in the health sciences.
4 hands-on activities to get students excited about anatomy
1. Compare animal anatomy
Students can start by exploring how the same organs from different animals compare to each other. This will help them understand the basic structure of organs and teach them to observe the subtle differences in those structures.
With the NASCOGuard® Mammalian Eye Comparison Set, students can observe, compare, dissect, and determine the differences between sheep, cow, and pig eyes with the help of a detailed mammalian eye dissection guide.
They can then dig deeper into different animal structures with the NASCOGuard Vertebrate Organ Comparison Kit, which offers an ideal way to compare the anatomy of common vertebrates, including a sparrow, bullfrog, rat, fish, and turtle. The activity guide takes students through a step-by-step, hands-on comparison of external and internal anatomical structures.
2. Focus on the skeletal system
After exploring diagrams and models of the skeletal system, give students the opportunity to examine the real thing. As they learn more about the skeletal system, students can dissect specific bone structures, such as the following:
- Cow elbow joint:This teaching aid enables students to understand the type of movement that is possible with a common hinge joint. They’ll be able to see firsthand the structures associated with the front elbow joint of a cow, including the humerus, radius, and ulna, as well as identify articulating surfaces, the synovial joint cavity, ligaments, bursae, cartilage, bones, muscle origin, muscle insertion, and tendons.
- Longitudinal section of cow bone: Students can view the internal structure of the front leg of a cow bone that has been sectioned longitudinally. They’ll be able to see the periosteum, solid bone layer, spongy bone, medullary canal, yellow bone marrow, red bone marrow, and epiphysial line. The head of the long bone is included to show the articulating surface of the hyaline cartilage.
- Cross section of long cow bone: For a different view, allow students to examine these cross-sections of the front leg of a cow to view the concentric rings, haversian canal, yellow bone marrow, and periosteum membrane.
See and touch the real thing
Encourage your students to learn and explore with the safest dissection specimens available.
3. Learn about the respiratory system
Examining organs gives students an up close and personal look at how they function, but actually showing the organs in action will provide another layer of understanding.
With inflatable lung kits, students can see and learn how pig lungs work, which is comparable to how human lungs work. Along with observing how the lungs inflate and deflate, students can also examine the effects of smoking with a comparison kit that includes a second set of simulated smoker’s lungs. A section of dried lung is included with each kit to show internal anatomy structures, including arteries, veins, bronchioles, alveoli, and bronchi.
4. Create your own replicas
Once students have had the opportunity to closely examine real organs and bones, challenge them to show what they’ve learned by creating their own anatomical models. Depending on your resources, they could choose from 3D printing, clay, or papier mâché.
Students can then share their models with the class by pointing out the key features and explaining the functions of each one.
Reinforce connections to future careers
When students are given context around animal dissection, it leads to a better understanding of how it relates to the skills they’ll use in their future health science careers. Continually reinforcing this context will take them on their next step towards success beyond high school.
Explore the following posts to find more ways to show students how dissection could lead to future careers: