Anatomy Class Dissects Pigs

By Michelle Kapusta ’19, Tiffany Fu ’19, and Jasper Li ’19
Oink, oink! Students from Dr. Trevor Stokes’ anatomy classes performed a pig dissection.

According to Dr. Stokes, the students performed a dissection of a pig uteri. The reason is that the body part has both adult tissues and developmental tissues that contain fetal pigs in early development in various stages. Therefore, there is a sufficient amount of sample that can be used, in case a sample is lost from incorrect cutting done by the students, which could have occurred if the students dissected other animals, such as a frog. The students were given five full class periods to complete the dissection.

Dissections are often done by a “formula” in which the teacher models cuts first and the student cuts second. “I wanted the students to be able to do a dissection, but more so that they discover themselves,” said Dr. Stokes. “So they had to create a guide for other people who may be thinking of doing a pig dissection.”

Dr . Stokes wanted his students to learn from their mistakes when performing the dissection, rather than him giving them a guide that they had to follow. Without steps, the students do not feel bored, but rather interested and engaged.

“It was pretty fun doing the dissection in class because I never experienced studying animals in that way and it helped me learn a lot more about the organs such as, what they actually look like,” said Haoxuan Chen ’19.

Instead of reading a textbook about how to complete a dissection, most of the anatomy students were excited to do something different and take a hands-on approach to learning.

“I was really excited when I found out we were gonna do an actual pig dissection by ourselves and not watch video clips of a dissection or pictures of the process it takes,” said Shawn Belykh ’19. “We never do such hands-on activities in our other classes, so it was pretty cool experiencing a change in learning for a little bit.” Dr. Stokes stated, “They had to choose which system they wanted to focus on such as, the reproductive system, the digestive system, and some people had the option of choosing the neuro system, which is difficult because the skull is developing; it is possible to look at the brains of embryonic pigs, but it is very challenging.”

Besides challenging themselves to expand their learning and discovering themselves, Dr. Stokes also wanted his students to build up their confidence. In addition, Dr. Stokes wanted the dissection to be open-ended and exploratory to get all of the
kids engaged.

“The students were really terrific, they were super excited,” said Dr. Stokes. “It was interesting the feedback I got back from students. Some students were done with it and a few students gave me feedback saying that they wish they had more time to spend on the sample and felt as if they were rushed.”

In the near future, Dr. Stokes is excited for his students to perform more dissections during the spring semester on other animals and hopes to possibly do comparative anatomy since students can hopefully work on different organisms and the different organs found in the animals.

“The students will have a choice of one out of four dissections: a dogfish shark, a yellow perch, a mouse, and a rat,” said Dr. Stokes.

Although there are many positives to the dissections, there are some negative aspects to it, such as the stench and the morality.

“Everyone in my class complained about the odor, but the teacher didn’t really do anything about it,” said Chen.

Dr. Stokes would have used air fresheners. However, he believed it might harm his students.

“At first I felt bad about dissecting the pig because it was like killing a living thing, especially since it had piglets inside,” said Penny Tran ’19.

Other students had more comical ways to view the dissections.

“I don’t feel bad about bacon, so I wouldn’t feel bad about some unborn pigs,” said Chen.

The anatomy classes consist of mostly juniors and count as either a science or an elective credit.

Chen said, “I really enjoyed the fall semester of anatomy because it wasn’t just sitting in a chair and listening to a teacher lecture while the students copy notes from the board and then take an exam. This class is really interesting and I think more people should take it.”

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