Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frog Dissection: A Rite of Passage or A Passage to Extinction

We have officially entered the age of technology.  I do not say this because even third grade students have their own iPhones, and not because some classes at American high schools have abandoned textbooks and now rely on laptops.  I say this because recently I discovered that some schools are going virtual when it comes to frog dissections.  Now, I know that this is only a brief unit in a middle school science class, but as a recent news cast on Channel One News pointed out, it is a “rite of passage.”  Younger students know that their older brothers and sisters have been able to dissect and examine their very own frogs in class and they wish to live to tell this story to their younger siblings as well.  So, after viewing the new method of dissection, I began to wonder:  why? And is it really better?
First, I had to look at the facts:  1/3 of all amphibians are endangered and a majority of frogs used in dissections come from the wild.  I am 100% for saving endangered species, so this fact is substantial for me.  So, why not just grow them on farms?  Well, the problem with this is that these lab-grown specimens often carry infectious diseases that they can spread to natural populations.  Neither method is going to save many of this fading species.
Another important fact is that the cost, according to a teacher in this same news report, is $500-$1000 less per year to do the lesson online.  With this economy, I get that, too.  These facts seem to be enough to convince me, but one aspect of the new method that weighs heavily on my mind comes from the famous Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”  If students cannot perform the dissection with their own hands, I fear that they will not receive the complete lesson.  The virtual dissection “tells” and “shows,” but it does not “involve,” which is my main concern with this.  So, the debate becomes difficult for me, an animal-lover and protector of all species.
The simple solution would be to outlaw frog dissections all together, but I have a hard time coping with such a loss of tradition.  I have not yet completely decided my stance on the issue, though I admit the continuance of a species is far more important to me than one lesson in science class; however, I would love to know what you would have to say!  Should we continue frog dissections in our local school systems, or should we join the technological age? 
If you would like to view a video of this news cast for more information, please visit: 

I would really appreciate your feedback!


  1. Interesting debate. I remember playing a frog-dissection computer game when I was a young kid.

    Do you think it would make a difference if the dissection involved another animal? My 6th grade class dissected cow's eyeballs, which were a byproduct of meat production. I'm not certain it's cheaper, nor do I myself eat meat, but dissecting cow eyes certainly avoided harming endangered species.

  2. This is a great point! Your typical cow eye used in these types of dissections ranges anywhere from $2-$4, while a frog (depending on the size) can range anywhere from $4-$10 a piece; so, I think you definitely provide a valid point. Cow eyeballs are much more cost effective, not to mention they are readily available. When I was in 4th grade, my class dissected a cow eyeball as well, and I feel that I learned a lot from this experience. The only problem with substituting a cow eye for a frog (though it is much cheaper and does not cause more harm to animals than what is already done), is that only the eye can be examined, as opposed to an entire body. There are, of course, fetal pigs, turtles, and rats that can be used, but each of these are hard to find for less than $10. So, as in all decisions, I suppose it comes down to choosing which is more important: do we make a possibly inferior subsitution, or do we continue to sacrifice a species for the learning experience? I really appreciate your thought on this!