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CadenceSophia

Dissections at a young age

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I need some input. I can't tell if I'm over thinking this.

My DD7 is taking marine biology/zoology at NextLevel Homeschool (online). There are optional dissections coming up. This quarter there is a sea anemone and a jelly fish, and after that there are some animals in increasing order up to a shark to dissect.

The class is listed for 10-17 year olds. DD is doing great and loving it. She's been begging for dissections for about a year now BUT the thing that is holding me back is that she doesn't actually want to cut things up. She knows dissections are part of a science education and she just wants to get on with it.

I'm having a hard time reconciling the tiny powerhouse in front of me who is begging for and capable up upper middle school/maybe early highschool level with (but not workload) with the fact that she's a 7 year old baby and most of her friends can't even read yet. Dissecting things just seems so.. cold and clinical. Part of me thinks it is a totally inappropriate activity for a 7 year old... And then another part of me says we catch and process our own fish every year so it's hardly different.

I don't know. Help me out?

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Ok I'm replying to my own post but.. seriously how do you reconcile with having one of these kids who grow up so fast? That's DD in my avatar, me wearing her in the ergo not even 18 months ago.. That tiny thing can explain taxonomic classification, studies Latin for fun when she's bored, and can explain the denouement, rising and falling action and a bunch of other literary terms I always forget until she pops out with one....

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My marine biology enthusiast has done some dissection at home at ages 6 and 7. We did it fairly unschooly style - our housemate would find interesting creatures or fish parts at the market and invite DS to dissect and explore them before she cooked them up for food.

 

He's never taken a formal course which included dissection, but I don't think he'd have a problem with it.

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Dissections aren’t gross or scary. But they do require a certain amount of eye hand coordination that some seven year olds might not have no matter how bright. If she wants to watch them you could do them for her while she watches. Or as some else suggested, there are virtual dissections. I would let her lead in this. Her advancement in science will not stall if she’s not ready for dissections. She can still progress. (Personally we enjoyed the higher level dissections more than anemones etc because the biology was easier to relate to our own. )

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Edited by Jean in Newcastle
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Two of my kids have done dissections with me at that age and thought it was cool. I think if she is interested it’s fine and not age inappropriate. At that age it’s kind of the same as being interested in dead bugs you find outside. I wouldn’t force a 7 yr old but I wouldn’t stop a kid who wants to do it simply due to age.

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I agree with Alice. My now 8 year old has watched dissections done by reluctant siblings since she was 5. She lives them and so I did a starfish with her. She was just begging me the other day to do another dissection. I have to do most if the cutting.

 

And I agree that it's really not that different than other nature studies.

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When I was that age I cut all bugs that I found in our summer house. My granny was working at the lab and she gave me a proper microscope and I spent many summers looking at the insects inside and outside... and now I can literally faint when I see blood :laugh:  

 

Edited by rushhush08
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She knows dissections are part of a science education and she just wants to get on with it.

 

Actually, they don't have to be.  I have a degree in biochemistry and never once had to dissect anything in high school or college.

 

That said, dissections are quite interesting.

Edited by EKS
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When I was that age I cut all bugs I have found in our summer house. My granny was working at the lab and gave me a proper microscope and I spent many summers looking at the insect inside and outside... and now I can literally faint when I see blood :laugh:  

 

Yeah, when I read the initial post my first reaction was that young was a good time to start.  My stomach was much stronger when I was young.   

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If she wants to do them, and has the motor coordination to safely wield a scalpel, it won’t hurt to try. She may find it frustrating, or she may love it.

 

Having said that, my DD plans to be a herpetologist, and has a moral opposition to many dissections for a myriad of reasons. Multiple biologists have told her that unless she plans to become a surgeon (for humans or animals), this is not an issue, and that, in fact, few colleges do wet lab traditional dissections at the undergrad level anymore. She’s still gotten a decent amount of experience, but it’s been by buying whole fresh seafood at the Mexican or Asian grocery and preparing it for dinner, preparing feeders for small snakes that can only take part of one at a time, being able to participate in necropsies where a vet is trying to figure out what killed an animal, plus lots of digital and physical models. Eventually, I plan to send her out into the field with some of the TWRA folks who need to cull deer, where the meat is used for the hungry, which will let her get some experience with the anatomy of larger animals.

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If she wants to do them, and has the motor coordination to safely wield a scalpel, it won’t hurt to try. She may find it frustrating, or she may love it.

 

Having said that, my DD plans to be a herpetologist, and has a moral opposition to many dissections for a myriad of reasons. Multiple biologists have told her that unless she plans to become a surgeon (for humans or animals), this is not an issue, and that, in fact, few colleges do wet lab traditional dissections at the undergrad level anymore. She’s still gotten a decent amount of experience, but it’s been by buying whole fresh seafood at the Mexican or Asian grocery and preparing it for dinner, preparing feeders for small snakes that can only take part of one at a time, being able to participate in necropsies where a vet is trying to figure out what killed an animal, plus lots of digital and physical models. Eventually, I plan to send her out into the field with some of the TWRA folks who need to cull deer, where the meat is used for the hungry, which will let her get some experience with the anatomy of larger animals.

 

The bolded would be my main concern, unless you are planning to do that part of it for her.  

 

As others have mentioned, there are alternatives to dissections if she doesn't really want to cut anything but feels it's necessary to study science.  Those alternatives are widely accepted these days.

 

I did a sheep brain dissection yesterday with a Zombie class I'm teaching.  I had two 10 year old girls who were able to handle all of it without a problem, but a brain is a lot softer than some other dissection specimens and we were able to get away with a fairly dull scalpel (the kit came with a plastic knife).   

 

The smell of formaldehyde definitely brought back memories for me.  :tongue_smilie:  

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There are ethical optouts in most colleges & you absolutely can go to school & get even a bio degree without doing dissections.

 

The anti vivisection society has a bunch of resources on humane science education, options other than dissection & legal protection for students who opt out of harming animals. https://www.navs.org/what-we-do/advance-humane-science-education/#.WnXZFqinHIU

There are vet schools now which will only dissect pets that have been donated to the program, not animals that are grown in horrible conditions to be killed for the purpose of dissection. As  one vet I heard talking about it said, the last thing you want is a vet who is desensitized. You want a vet who is deeply moved at the precious life of every animals.   

I just finished upgrading my human anatomy and physiology courses in college - these are the ones required for all the health science programs. There was no mandatory dissection. There was a dissected specimen which we had to be able to label on a lab exam but students didn't have to dissect anything. 

 

fwiw, the only thing I would consider dissecting is a human body which had been donated to science.  Theoretically I could ethically do one of my own pets but realistically I know I couldn't.   

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Dissections aren’t gross  

 

I'm gonna have to disagree with you there, *gags* 

 

OP, I don't think there's anything wrong with her doing dissections, but it doesn't sound like she actually wants to, she just thinks it's "next" in science education? It's really not. Like other posters have noted, dissections are increasingly rare except for a subset of specialties. 

 

I'd personally go with virtual dissections at this point, if she is truly interested in them. For hands-on, actual dissection should be preceded by lots of observation of live animals, as there is a tremendous amount to learn from the outside, so to speak. She can draw pictures in a nature journal, both of the whole animal and of specific parts (legs of a grasshopper, etc). When you happen to have dead animals around (the fish you catch, dead bugs in the yard, etc), she can certainly observe and draw those as well. 

 

Dissection calls for many safety procedures, because there are issues with chemicals, bacteria, and so on. You need chemical splash goggles, not just safety glasses, there could be reactions to the chemicals - in short, doing dissections correctly and safely can be an involved procedure. I personally would wait until there is ample good reason to do a real dissection.

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I dissected worms out of curiosity when I was 5 or 6. It probably would have been a lot more humane for the worm if I had been allowed something sharper than a plastic butter knife... probably would have been more interesting too if it wasn't mutilated from the blunt knife....

 

Anyways, I would absolutely let an interested 7 year old do a dissection with lots of supervision and plenty of help. I can't remember how old my oldest son was when we did our first homeschool dissection but he was less than 10 years old which means that his siblings were even younger and they all gathered around the table to watch and participate. Even my animal lover was interested in watching and finding out what it looks like on the inside. He knew that he didn't have to kill the animal himself, it would already be dead when we received it so he was ok with it once he knew that. Over the years we did worms, starfish, perch, cow eye, jelly fish, frogs, and several more that are just evading my memory right now. We also did owl pellets several times which might be a gentle introduction to dissection since you are just picking out bones.

 

We also had a few virtual dissection kits and books with the acetate pages that you can lift the layers to see pictures of the different body systems in the animal featured in that book. Those were always a hit particularly with boys, both my own boys and any of their friends that came over, lol.

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The big science museum in my area has twice a day dissections with talks led by museum specialists who explain the process and then take questions - you could take her to the science museum nearest to you which has dissections for her to watch and get her more familiar with the process. Then, you could try out a few at home.

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My kids did their first dissections at age 8 if not younger.  It's not a big deal.  I think if your child is signed up for the class, she should do the work, but maybe you could ask for an exception (i.e. could she just watch the dissection part). 

 

ETA just realized this is an online course, so I deleted part of my comment.

Edited by SKL
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Thanks so much for all the advice! I guess I was over thinking it. I also talked to my mom who knows my daughter and shares some of my sensibilities on the subject and she told me to absolutely go for it. So I guess we will be ordering the kit.

 

I love the idea of visiting a science museum to watch dissections, but there is absolutely nothing like that available here.

 

And just to clarify, the dissections are listed as an optional part of the class, so she could still do the class even if she decided not to dissect.

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If she wants to do them, and has the motor coordination to safely wield a scalpel, it won’t hurt to try. She may find it frustrating, or she may love it.

 

 

I think she might. She should be safe at least and she has very steady hands.

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It sounds to me like she wants to do the dissections, but you were wondering if that made her cold and unfeeling and if you should hold her back from cutting up animals. 

 

I think it's ok for her to do them.  The animals are already dead and she is doing it for scientific inquiry and not out of a sense of wanting to hurt the animals, so it's not "cold and clinical" for her to want to do them.  It's a natural progression of her curiosity and interest.

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My daughter has been doing dissections since she was 7. I got her variety kits from Home Science Tools. A few she did independently on her own, with the booklet, and a few I did with her. At 9 she sat in on a necropsy and watches veterinary surgery. Some kids will never have an interest in that kind of thing...but some find their passion early on. I am a big believer in letting the kid lead the way. You can always pull back or offer a different suggestion if something doesn't work. 

 

 

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Our local science museum says kids have to be 8+ because of the sharp scalpel (next one is mice, the month after that is squid):

 

http://www.sciencebuff.org/site/jevents-list-by-week/icalrepeat.detail/2018/03/10/1428/-/advanced-dissection-discoveries-mice

 

My oldest did a summer camp right around his 8th birthday at the same museum where they did three dissections (perch, squid, and starfish iirc?), and he didn't want to cut, but he did watch the other kids cut (not sure if he was the only one who didn't cut). My 7yo noticed what I had open on the computer and is now disappointed he's too young for the upcoming mouse dissection.

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