Abbot 5th-graders learn about dissection from surgeon

Deer heart
Fifth-graders iat Abbot Elementary School dissect deer plucks under the direction of Dr. Manek Sood, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the St. Joseph Mercy Health System. The training supplements the students’ study of the human circulatory and respiratory systems.

From Abbot Elementary School

Fifth-graders in Tracy Barrett’s and Rebecca Waits’ classrooms at Abbot Elementary School learned from a pro on May 17, dissecting deer plucks under the direction of Dr. Manek Sood, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

Barrett coordinated the deer heart and lungs dissection to supplement the students’ study of the human circulatory and respiratory systems. This is the second year that she has overseen this project.

To participate, students signed a ‘Lab Rules’ sheet that outlined proper lab dress code and protocols. Groups of three to four students were paired with a parent volunteer who wielded the scalpel for the dissection incisions.

Throughout the year, Environmental Education teacher Dave Szczygiel harvests the deer hearts and immediately freezes them to prepare for this project. Abbot is the only AAPS elementary school that performs deer heart dissections.

The hearts were about the size of a large coffee mug, making it easy for students to see and touch all of the key parts of the heart. Dr. Sood performed the dissection while he projected it on the screen using the classroom digital document camera so everyone could easily see everything he was doing.

The goal of the dissection was for the students to learn the basic parts of the heart and the path the blood takes through the heart and lungs. Each was encouraged to touch and probe the heart and lungs as soon as incisions were made and they were given the all-clear sign.

“It was amazing to see that the left side of the heart was thicker than the right side,” said fifth-grader Megan. Classmate Ben added, “The lung was so squishy and bloody. The valves in the heart were so small and thin. I’m surprised that they last that long.”

Duncan noted: “The esophagus had ridges of cartilage. It felt all scaly.” Student Kory concluded by saying, “It was an amazing experience to really know what is inside of me. It was totally gross, yet totally cool.”

When the dissections were complete, Szczygiel recycled the dissected plucks at the Green Adventure’s Camp farm. A heat-and-motion sensitive camera was able to monitor the pile of plucks, as they became part of the woodland’s food chain.

The school offered special thanks to Barrett for coordinating this effort, to Szczygiel for harvesting the deer hearts and to parent Alicia Nalepa for coordinating the time and talents of Dr. Sook. Scalpels for the dissection were purchased through an Abbot PTO grant this spring. Every classroom at Abbot has a digital document camera purchased by the Abbot PTO and Barrett used hers to project the dissection.

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