Fun with Scalpels (Oct. 10 & 11)

This week’s activity consisted of sheep brain dissections. I attended school on both Monday and Tuesday, so I worked with all six of Mr. Macha’s classes. We started by giving the students a sheep brain and then asking them to make some observations. We made a list of their observations and then answered any questions they had about them. Some of those observations included the covering on the brain (yes it’s real and it’s called the meningeal layer), what the funky things were (muscles to the eyes), and which structure was the optic nerve. Next, we handed out the scalpels and scissors and had them try to remove the meningeal layer in one piece. We asked them to do it that way to keep them from hacking at the brains – and it worked! Not many groups got it one piece, but several got it in just a few pieces and they all ended up with intact (sheep) brains. Once we could see the brain, we identified the four lobes, the cerebellum, and the medulla oblongata, just as they had been doing with pictures of human brains. Then, we cut the brains in half to examine the internal structures. After we reviewed those structures, the students were allowed to use the rest of the time to explore structures on their own. Some students ended up with finely chopped piles of brain tissue, but others took their time and dissected out parts of the cerebellum, blood vessels, and structures related to the eyeball. All in all, most of the students were fairly well behaved and did a good job. I hope that the dissections caught their interest and will help them remember the material they learned.

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About Sarah Schmidt

I am a PhD candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas. I study prairie rivers and I am especially interested in algal communities and using lipids to explore food webs.
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