I cut the top of my thumb yesterday slicing up a lime for shrimp skewers on the BBQ. This morning, I went to open a new band-aid and, for some reason, the band-aid had frogs on it.
This reminded me of an event Science Timmins facilitated as a culminating activity for my Grade 5 science class in November 2013. We dissected frogs at the conclusion of our Human Organ Systems unit. Or, as one of my students put it, “digesting frogs.” In his defense, we had just been learning about digestive systems!
Why frogs? A frog’s anatomy is similar to that of a human being’s anatomy; that is, we both have the same types of organ systems, but of course a frog’s is much simpler than ours.
MHHE’s Virtual Lab: Virtual Frog Dissection provides students with an opportunity to virtually compare both interior and exterior anatomies of frogs and humans. This website also contains audio instructions; a great accommodation for those students who have difficulty reading, or for those students who are auditory (as well as visual) learners.
The students were so excited for this activity, and for every day leading up to Dissection Day, they would talk about it or ask if it was actually happening (to this day, the students still talk about it and ask if they will have the opportunity to do it again)! When the day finally came, they were beside themselves. Antoine Garwah outfitted each student with goggles, dissection kits and smocks, so they looked like proper scientists. We had prepped their “stations” (their desks) with drop cloths (plastic tablecloths from Dollarama, aka an educator’s second home), and each student had an aluminum tray for the frog to lay in during the procedure.
The frogs were transported to us in a big white bucket, and each student took turns to pluck his/her frog from the bucket with some squeals and, for some, after a few attempts!
This is the structure (more or less) that we followed on the day: Science Timmins Frog Dissection Structure (1)
Each and every student took part in actually making incisions in the frog’s body, as instructed by Antoine, and then worked diligently in identifying each organ system as they came to it. I will tell you that a few of the students had to go out to the hallway to take a breather in between sessions, but I was surprised at their collective stamina! This was definitely their first foray into this type of activity, and I know that they all believed they were scientists that day.
Here is a parent letter I had drafted prior to our activity, to ensure that each student had consent to participate. It is a fully editable Google Doc, so please use, edit and share should it benefit you and your students.
For the Animal Rights Activists (or the squeamish!)
The Frog Dissection app for both iOS and Android provides a decent alternative to the real thing; and also offers an accommodation for those students who have moral or ethical objections to dissecting animals. iTunes sells it for $3.99, while the Android version is $5.17 as this post goes live.
Ontario Grade 5 Science Expectations from Understanding Life Systems: Human Organ Systems
The following are the Big Ideas taken from the curriculum:
- Organ systems are components of a larger system (the body) and, as such, work together and affect one another. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)
- Organ structures are linked to their functions. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)
- Systems in the human body work together to meet our basic needs. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)
- Choices we make affect our organ systems and, in turn, our overall health. (Overall expectations 1 and 3)
By the end of Grade 5, the students will (Overall Expectations):
1. analyse the impact of human activities and technological innovations on human health;
2. investigate the structure and function of the major organs of various human body systems;
3. demonstrate an understanding of the structure and function of human body systems and interactions within and between systems.