Nothing Beats a Good Dissection 😉
I love using digital tools in the classroom. When you don’t have all the resources in the world or want something explained to your students from a different perspective, videos and simulations are a lifesaver. However, after a few years ‘in the field’ so to speak, I’ve realised that a digital presentation, no matter how brilliant, will never trump a live demonstration.
While studying the Circulatory System with my KS3 students recently, I decided to guide them through doing a heart dissection.
- To observe the external and internal structure of the heart firsthand
- To link observations to what students know about the heart
- To observe how various parts of the heart are suited to their specific functions
What you need
- Fresh, undamaged sheep or pig’s hearts: 1 for every 2 people. (I managed to source these at my Local Makro)
- scissors (1 per pair)
- scalpel or craft knife (1 per pair)
- Latex gloves
Before you begin
Although I am firmly in the camp that believes the benefits outweigh the risks wrt most scientific experiments, you need to give your students a clear safety briefing. Before the lesson begins, find out if anyone has any contagious blood or immune conditions so that you know what actions need to be taken in an emergency. Reinforce the need for care and safety and provide strict guidelines for what students can and cannot do on their own.
The Heart is a complicated organ and some structures are difficult to see if you don’t know what you are looking for. I showed my students this excellent video in the lesson before we did the dissection:
We began the actual lesson by recapping safety rules, putting on gloves and handing out the various tools. The student instructions for the dissection itself can be downloaded at my TES shop here (for free!). I also included a worksheet that recaps the internal and external structure of the heart.
The students were fascinated with this dissection. It brought the theory to life in a powerful (albeit a tad gross for some of them) way. I think they also enjoyed being given some hands on responsibility.