Assistant superintendent says all cutting will be done via computer simulation
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - To dissect an earthworm, frog or any other specimen next school year, students won't need forceps, scalpels or probes.
Published: June 20, 2012
Published: June 20, 2012
Instead, they will be manipulating a mouse on a computer to perform virtual dissections.
Despite opposition from a couple of school board members and some teachers, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum/Instruction Rebecca Fleck is sticking by her decision against hands-on dissections next year.
To save money, the district will use a grant that will provide, at no cost, virtual resources and training for virtual dissections, she said.
But the grant requires a promise of no real dissections, according to Secondary Programs Director Ruth Heckman.
At Monday's meeting, school board member Donna Howerton said she received more phone calls about the decision to end hands-on dissections in favor of virtual dissections.
She asked what action has been taken on the issue.
Schools Superintendent Wally Cox said he was unaware of any changes.
Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Fleck said the district will only be doing virtual dissections as planned.
"You have to pay attention to the time allotted to teach the standards that you are required to teach, and you also have to think in terms of what is the best learning experience for students," she said.
Research has shown that virtual dissection is just as good, if not a better, learning experience than hands-on dissection, she said. When a group of students is dissecting something, one error destroys the whole experience. If a student is absent that day, he or she has lost the opportunity.
Virtual dissection is being used in more and more high schools and universities across the U.S., she said.
Board Chairman J. Ned Hancock said teachers have told him they want to do different things that excite and engage students and make them want to learn.
"It would be a shame to say we are not going to allow this (hands-on dissections) to happen in our schools," he said. "I think we offer a very diverse group of students very diverse opportunities. I just don't understand why we make the blanket decision 'nobody can do it.'"
Fleck said there had been ongoing discussion on the issue among science resource teacher Dorothea Strickland and science teachers.
Lake Placid High biology teacher David Irwin said Tuesday the policy change came as a surprise
"As the biology teachers, we were end-arounded by this; nobody ever mentioned anything to us; never got any input from us; never even said anything until they just told us, 'You can't do dissections anymore,'" he said.
Teachers try to show students the relevance of what they are learning, Irwin said. The best examples of relevance are hands-on activities and real-world applications, and that is what officials have pulled out of classrooms.
After dissecting earthworms and frogs, students work with a fetal pig, which is similar to the human body, he said. All the organs are the same with the same relative proportion to each other. It is as close to looking at the inside of a mammal as most kids will ever get.
It is not as expensive to get specimens as everybody thinks, Irwin said.
"If you are thinking about going into the medical field, if you don't figure out early that you don't know how to do this or you can't handle it, you have wasted a bunch of time and money in school," he said.
"There is nobody in the medical community that agrees with it because it is one of the prime things that you have to know how to do."
Avon Park High biology teacher Jenna Hancock (no relation to Ned) said kids love hands-on dissections.
"We do a lot of stuff with computers in biology now; they grow bored of the computers," she said. "We really have to vary it and can't do everything on a computer or else they are going to get sick of it."
She used to have her students do a virtual dissection first so they had an idea of what they were supposed to do before actually cutting on a real specimen, Hancock said.
Her students probably won't be as excited about virtual dissections as they were with the real animals, she said.
"It's kind of a pity in my opinion; I know my colleagues would agree with me in that statement," Hancock said. "We would really enjoy continuing to dissect real specimens.
"I hope that they will think about what they are trying to make us do and maybe change their minds. I am really glad that Mr. Hancock has taken a stance on this because I think it is worth looking at again."
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