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Shark dissection caps MHS anatomy classes
Martinsville High School senior Kelli Heath (from left) and juniors Jessica Carter and Maranda Johns get to work on a dogfish shark they had to dissect for their final lesson of the year for Alaina Kiskadden’s anatomy class. (Contributed photos by Kim Barto)
The theme song for “Jaws” may have come to mind for Martinsville High School students last week as they dissected dogfish sharks.
It was the final lesson of the year for two of Alaina Kiskadden’s anatomy classes.
The students — primarily juniors and seniors, according to Kiskadden — donned goggles, aprons and gloves before using scalpels and scissors to begin their task.
“The shark diagrams help show where to cut,” Kiskadden said. “The directions are clear and precise,” she added as students prepared to earn their final grade.
After students were arranged into groups, Kiskadden cut open sealed plastic bags, each of which contained three sharks. One shark was distributed to each group of students.
Using a worksheet that diagrammed the cuts as a guideline, Jessica Carter and Hunter Adkins got to work after Kiskadden directed the students to identify the stomach, intestines and other organs in the abdominal cavity.
Slicing the center of the abdominal cavity and spreading it open, Adkins, 18, said, “Grab it. Grab it.”
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s disgusting. It’s making my stomach hurt,” said Carter, 16.
After studying the abdomen and its contents, Adkins said, “I want to see his spine and his brain.”
He flipped the shark over and prepared to insert the scalpel into its back as Kiskadden explained that the shark’s brain “is set up completely different than ours. Their brain is elongated where ours is round.”
Carter said she wants to be a therapist — it doesn’t matter what kind.
“Any therapist is good (and will allow her to) socialize with people,” Carter said. “Being able to help them makes me feel better.”
The dissection taught her “to never cut open animals,” she said, laughing.
Adkins said he aspires to be an attorney, “and if not (that), then a game warden” because he loves animals.
Dissecting the shark allowed him to see “the true inside and outside of an actual animal; it was a firsthand experience,” he said.
Jessica Hairston, 18, who was in a nearby group, plans to pursue a career in forensic science inspired in part by TV shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order.”
She said she enjoyed the class.
“It was very interesting,” she said, encouraging others to take anatomy.
Kelli Heath, 17, said she hopes to major in early childhood education “because I love kids,” but participating in the anatomy class also was important and taught Heath about “the anatomy of the human body and how it works, how it’s structured and how it functions.”
“I’ve learned a lot this year,” she said.
Objectives of the exercise included letting youngsters “explore the anatomy and see how an organism is put together,” Kiskadden said. “We thought the sharks would be pretty cool because not many (students) will ever get a chance to interact with a shark.”
Kiskadden said a grant from the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment made the shark dissections possible.
The endowment was established to support innovative, hands-on learning programs in the schools that might not otherwise be possible due to budget constraints.