Catholic high schools phasing out traditional animal dissections using 'modern virtual technology'

Catholic high schools phasing out traditional animal dissections using 'modern virtual technology'

Students at Windsor's Catholic schools are using virtual technology in the classroom to replace a traditional biology class project.

Faux frogs, virtual renderings of hearts, lungs and ribs ... it's all part of doing away with traditional animal dissection in favour of new technology. 

The Windsor Essex Catholic District School board will phase out frog and fetal pig dissection in its schools over the next two years.

"Animal dissection is academically unnecessary and, despite its prevalence in North American schools, it is not practiced worldwide," said Dan Fister, executive superintendent of innovation and experiential learning. "We believe this is a more ethical, humane and engaging way to teach students science."

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Peter Miceli is in Grade 10 and never thought he would have seen something like a lung in this format.

"Even though it's gross to look at, I got to see it," said Miceli. "I learned about its intricacies and what it does."

Miceli said he'd never be able to dissect a frog without throwing up, so this gives him a chance to learn without feeling grossed out.

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"I hope to learn about [what happens] when your heart isn't beating properly," said Miceli. "I can't believe this technology exists."

The phase-out project also connects students to Dr. Charu Chandrasekera, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods program (CCAAM) at the University of Windsor.

"We're in the 21st century ... the kids today aren't getting the education that they can get by using these new technologies," said Chandrasekera, who led the charge to bring the technology to the classrooms.

 "It's important to expose kids to this [technology] at a young age."

Chandrasekera said the board was open to the idea and embraced the technology from the beginning, but it took a while — and a lot of fundraising — to put the plan in place. 

According to Chandrasekera, if you want to learn human anatomy, a cadaver isn't necessary. 

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"You have the feeling of learning something real, but there's studies that say technology methods are just as good if not superior to traditional methods," said Chandrasekera. 

All eight of the WECDSB high schools have received faux frog dissection kits and students will have access to the CCAAM lab for more hands-on experience.