High School Dissection, by Jen W.

Dissection Day

 

Although dissection lab is not experimental science, there are very good reasons for high school students to engage in dissection. First, dissection is very useful in helping students better visualize biological structures. These apply both narrowly and more widely. Dissecting a sheep or cow eye not only teaches the student about sheep and cows, but they can apply that knowledge to the human eye. Secondly, dissection gives students confidence in their later labs. Dissection requires some amount of skill and precision, but there is no expectation of achieving a specific result as with later labs the students will experience in chemistry and other areas of science. Thirdly, when you take dissection in incremental steps, they gradually get used to the “yucky stuff” involved with dissection, which may help them get over queasiness that may be associated with the medical field.

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First challenge for a veteran homeschool mom: finding the dissection kit in the science closet.

To get started with dissection, you will need several items: a dissection kit, a dissection tray, an instruction book and one or more specimens, you might also want to print lab sheets or worksheets. There are YouTube videos available of many different types of dissection that can help walk nervous students (and parents!) through the process.

There are several different dissection kits available. Personally, I really like the advanced dissection kit from Home Training Tools. The set has everything most students will need while keeping the price low. The scalpel is sharp, but easy to handle. The tweezers, probes and everything are made well enough to last through several kids. I added extra pins, extra scalpel blades and a magnifying glass to our kit. Note the instructions on how to change scalpel blades on the site, many people have trouble figuring it out without help.

I own this dissection tray. It is currently being used by my second child, having made it through several dissections with my eldest. It is still holding up very well. I appreciate the reusable aspect because it means that it’s always at hand.

You can see the tray at work dissecting an earthworm with pins in it in the featured photo.

We use this how-to book: How to Dissect by William Berman. This one book contains great basic information on dissection as well instructions for dissecting many different specimens, including all of the specimens that most students will tackle in high school.

I found free dissection worksheets here for most of our specimens.

There are several YouTube channels that provide students with excellent walk-throughs that will ease the mind of anyone nervous about dissection. I feel these two are among the best:

LabCast
Carolina Biological

My kids do at least the following: earthworm, clam, grasshopper, crayfish, frog, starfish and perch. More science focused and/or less grossed out kids also do: a cow eye, a squid, a dogfish shark and a fetal pig. I feel this gives the more timid a solid feel for anatomical structures, and gives the braver and/or more science-focused kids a pretty good range of specimen examples.

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Carolina Biological even has a useful video for dissecting the dogfish shark.

Although I strongly recommend hands-on dissection with real specimens, there are a few students who will be extra grossed-out and/or have ethical issues with dissection. In that case, as a last resort, there are virtual dissections available. Here are a couple of the more popular options:

Earthworm Dissection

Froguts Virtual Dissection

Squid Dissection

  
Jen jen_wW.– Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

“This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, by Jen W.

 

I know that lots of people think of literary analysis as a rhetoric stage skill. And mostly, it is. However, we can find messages in most books or stories. Even young children can find some of these basic messages without destroying their love of books, language or reading.

I read the poem “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams to a group of second and third graders. It is a simple poem, and I thought the idea of temptation would be something that they could relate to. But, they quickly zeroed in on something in the poem that doesn’t even register with most adults.

The children quickly pointed out that the poet says, “Forgive me.” He doesn’t say, “I’m so sorry, will you forgive me?” He doesn’t even say, “It won’t happen again, I’m sorry.” His apology comes more in the form of a demand than a request or an entreaty. He doesn’t even seem contrite for his actions.

Their parents had taught them that when you offer an apology, it should be a request, and that you should be truly sorry for your actions. The fact that the kids could read these things into a simple poem shows that even kids who are quite young are capable of interpreting literature on some level.

Very basic literary analysis really just begins by asking your kids what they think about a book. Ask questions like: What part did you like best? What part did you like least? Were you worried when ____? You might be surprised at the answers that you receive.

This is Just to Say:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15535

Jen Wjen_w.– Jen is born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

Frederick, by Leo Lionni — by Jen W.

 

Leo Lionni’s book Frederick is a great book for grammar stage kids. It contains pictures of adorable mice and a lesson about valuing different types of work in society.

There are a few things I like about the books of Leo Lionni in general. He uses many different techniques to create his artwork. You can find paper cutting, stamping, collage, and other techniques that are easy for a child to try out and emulate. I also appreciate the fact that he doesn’t dumb down his vocabulary to fit small children. His use of poetic language and descriptive words provides wonderful examples for kids.

First, we are introduced to a lovely meadow with a stone wall. We then meet the chatty mouse family that lives within the wall. Finally, we meet Frederick, introduced as the lone mouse who isn’t working hard gathering grain and nuts for the winter. This method helps us feel we are zooming in on the scene. It feels intimate, and we are slowly drawn into the mouse community.

How do we figure out the theme of the book? We look at the problems that the mice are having. There are three basic problems that the mice deal with: 1) they need to gather food for the winter, 2) Frederick doesn’t want to work, and 3) how to deal with the glum boredom of winter. As we progress through the book, it becomes obvious that the three themes combine. Yes, it is necessary to gather food for the winter, but gathering food isn’t the *only* necessary thing for the mice to survive the harsh winter. But, let’s leave Frederick and the mice for just a moment.

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.“  — Kurt Vonnegut

I recently read an article on how many art programs are being cut from schools due to deep cuts in federal funding. In the same week, I read If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s speeches and letters. One of Vonnegut’s recurrent themes was the importance of creation. In Vonnegut’s view, it doesn’t matter what you create; it doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees it. It only matters that you create.

Most homeschooling parents have read articles on the importance of art to a child’s development. But, most have also felt the strong temptation of letting the arts slip as we squeeze every minute of the day to have time for chores, sports, time with peers, and just fitting in the three Rs.

At this point, you are probably wondering what creation and art have to do with literary analysis, much less to do with the little mouse named Frederick. First, I strongly believe that it is easier to analyze literature when you’ve practiced writing a little. You learn the tricks and shortcuts that authors use to get their point across more easily. But, mainly, the quote speaks to what I believe is the real point of Frederick.

During the food gathering season, Frederick seems to daydream and laze about. But soon enough, the winter comes. The food supply becomes short. The mice are sad and forlorn. Frederick infuses some happiness back into their lives by telling stories — by creating. His creation helps all of those around him, not just himself. It soon becomes clear that although Frederick used his time differently than the other mice, it was equally worthy and productive, albeit not in a tangible sense.

Frederick2

Clearly, Lionni is making several points. First, art is worthy. It’s worthy of our time and attention. Art is worth giving compensation to an artist. Art can be a vocation that takes time away from “producing” in a more traditional sense. It’s a message that too many parents do not agree with.

Many parents are willing to pay for sports or a math tutor, but not for music or drawing lessons. Many parents are willing to help their child pursue a business degree, but not a degree in the arts. I think this book can provide food for thought for parents of all children. Do we truly value the arts? How can our actions reflect that?

Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

Education as a Commodity, by Jen W.

 

“Enlighten people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” -Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America is a country in which we purport to hold education of the young as a most treasured value. We work to hard to educate our own population. During the 2009-2010 school year, federal, state and local governments in the US spent over $638 billion dollars on elementary and secondary schools [1]. We have risked the lives of our soldiers to build schools in Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of the Taliban, only 32 percent of Afghanistan’s school aged children were enrolled in school–only three percent of girls. The US worked to build and refurbish hundreds of schools, resulting in millions of children (including a large percentage of girls and young women) being allowed to enroll in school [2].

Another important principle dearly held is the lack of government censorship in the US. In fact, we sanction other governments when they impose censorship upon their people. Recently, the US imposed sanctions upon Iran for engaging in satellite jamming and limiting access to the internet by their populace. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in her press release dated 8 November, “Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights. With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an “electronic curtain” to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.” [3]

Americans generally hold the view that education is always a positive. Therefore, one would think that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would be viewed as a boon to our civilization and a great benefit of technology to the modern age. Coursera is one such provider of MOOCs to students around the globe. It came as a surprise to many when the US sanctions intended to punish the government of Iran included the blocking of Coursera [4] and other MOOCs to Iran. We are going to punish the government of Iran for blocking access to internet information from its people by blocking internet educational information from its people? On what planet does this make sense?

If you are an American, please urge your government officials to exempt MOOCs from government sanctions upon Syria, Iran, Cuba and other countries in which a free, expansive alternative educational system is advantageous to a populace that otherwise hears only government ideology in the vacuum that exists when the free exchange of ideas is taken away. Education in this case should not be considered a commodity to be blocked from the people of Iran or any other sanctioned government, but be considered valued knowledge and information which will benefit the global community.

Contact the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control here:

http://www.treasury.gov/connect/Pages/contact-us.aspx

Contact your US Senator here:

http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

Contact your US Congressman here:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

1. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66

2. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/afghanistan/us-commitment.html

3. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/11/200338.htm

4. http://help.coursera.org/customer/portal/articles/1425714-why-is-my-country-blocked-

Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school. Jen has two more children who are equally smart, but learned to read on a more average schedule.