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Dissection Connection: Dissection Lab at DMNS

Kate Goodman

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has a lot more to offer than the exhibits shown there. They also offer a variety of activities for kids, such as Dissection Connection, where kids 2nd to 9th grade and their parent get the opportunity to look at anatomy in a way that’s usually not accessible to people. Understanding and knowledgeable museum staff teach you about the subject of dissection, and give a demo. Then the kids and their guardians get to try the same dissection on their own. Sheep hearts, sheep lungs, cow eyeballs, and frogs were all dissected independently, and there was also a demo of a sheep brain dissected. The kids got to try what is called the “float test,” to see the different types of tissue float and sink in water.
The staff actually tell you the different parts of what you are going to be dissecting, instead of letting you lop away at an unidentifiable organ with no purpose. This experience gives you much more in-depth information than the average dissection at school, because the group of people involved is small and you have time to get all your questions answered. The groups average around 5 pairs of kids and adults, but will take up to 10 pairs..
Before deciding to participate, do not forget that dissection is not for everyone. Many are squeamish about this activity, considering there is blood involved, as well as different preservative chemicals and different types of mucus. There is a chance that your appetite will be diminished afterwards. As I am not subject to the factors mentioned above, I enjoyed this activity quite a bit. I feel like if people would try dissection more, they would learn a lot more with a hands-on learning opportunity than with a poster of the organ and a teacher lecturing you on its features. There is also no need to worry about sharp implements, as the tools used in the dissections are just elementary-grade scissors. When you can actually get a chance to feel the chordae tendineae (The literal “heart strings”) and see the arterial valve of a heart, it really lets you understand how the human body works.
This is an activity that comes around on the events page of the DMNS website (http://www.dmns.org/learn/families/family-events/). Dissection Connection can come to classrooms, be visited by classrooms, or be visited by individuals and their guardians (the latter about roughly once a semester). This means your whole class can visit the dissection lab, or the dissection lab can come to you, for convenience.