Live Animals and Dissection

By Roy, Ken | The Science Teacher, April-May 2011 | Go to article overview

Live Animals and Dissection


Roy, Ken, The Science Teacher


In March 2008, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) revised its position statement on live animals and dissection. This statement, Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom, emphasizes the role of student interaction with animals in the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996). It encourages educators and school officials to address proper care and treatment of animals, as well (see "On the web").

Live animal safety

Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom promotes science activities that require observing and working with animals. This approach fosters students' interest in science and a general respect for life. To do so safely, NSTA recommends that teachers do the following:

* Educate themselves about the safe and responsible use of animals in the classroom, seek information from reputable sources, and familiarize themselves with state laws and regulations.

* Become knowledgeable about the acquisition and care of the animals under study so that both students and animals stay safe and healthy during all activities.

* Follow local, state, and national laws, policies, and regulations when live organisms, particularly native species, are included in the classroom.

* Develop activities that instill in students an appreciation for the value of life and the importance of caring for animals responsibly.

* Teach students how to safely handle live organisms and establish a plan for addressing such issues as allergies and fear of animals.

* Develop and implement a plan for future care or disposition of animals at the conclusion of the study and during school breaks and summer vacations.

* Espouse the importance of not conducting experimental procedures on animals if such procedures are likely to cause pain, induce nutritional deficiencies, or expose animals to parasites, toxic chemicals, or radiation. Shelter animals when the classroom is being cleaned with chemical cleaners, sprayed with pesticides, or when other potentially harmful chemicals are being used.

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Because of allergies and other immune system concerns, there are several steps teachers must take before animals enter the classroom. Students' health information should be secured from the school health office, parents notified, and Board of Education policies reviewed. Teachers must also consider proper animal care: The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science's Caring for Animals: A Guide to Animals in the Classroom (see "On the web") is a good place to start.

Dissection safety

Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom also addresses laboratory dissections and meaningful alternatives. Teachers should have a policy in place for dealing with students who have religious, moral, or ethical objections to dissection, and provide alternative activities when appropriate.

If a teacher chooses to include a dissection, specific safety issues must be addressed, including engineering controls (e.g., ventilation), standard operating procedures (e.g., appropriate specimen purchasing and disposal practices), and personal protective equipment (PPE; e. …

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