Dissecting Virtual Dissection

The National Association of Biology Teachers officially says that "There is no suitable alternative to the real dissection of animals and that dissection is essential to the understanding of life on earth." So what about all those students who oppose dissection for religious or moral reasons? Do they have to take a lower grade? Find out more about the alternatives to dissection and why more peeps are refusing to dissect.

What Is Virtual Dissection?

Virtual dissection is typically done on a computer, either online or through a computer program - but that's not the only way it can be done. There are tons of resources available for peeps interested in anatomy but who aren't comfortable dissecting real animals. There are worksheets you can do, videos you can watch and even full-scale, life-like models that piece together to show you exactly where the various animal parts go. The best part about virtual dissection tools is that they are all reusable. The anatomy of an animal isn't going to change, so the same models, videos and online activities can be used by a school for years to come.

What's Wrong with Real Dissection?

Many people believe there is nothing wrong with real dissection and that it is an important component of science class and many students enjoy dissection. However, there are reasons why dissection has caused such a stir in schools - other than it being kind of gross.

  • Between three to six million frogs are bred and killed each year for the purpose of dissection.
  • Just 12 Bullfrogs can cost $182. Times that by every Biology class in your school each year and you have one costly science experiment.
  • Frogs aren't the only animals used for Biology class - fetal pigs, cow's eyes and even cats are part of some curriculums.

Does Everyone Have to Dissect?

At most schools in North America, dissection is part of the science curriculum but some teachers have alternate assignments for kids who opt out. Ten American states have specific "dissection choice" laws in place that allows students to choose not to dissect - New York, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Illinois, Virginia, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Other states may have school board policies that regulate dissection choice. These laws allow students to participate in alternatives to dissection.

In Australia, teachers have the choice to include dissection in their lessons but it is not something that must be taught. And in other countries, like Argentina, dissection is banned in all schools. Other countries, like Poland, Holland, Switzerland and Israel, do not teach dissection until university. This doesn't mean they no longer study biology in these countries - they've just found alternatives to real dissection.

  • If you would like to try your hand at virtual dissection, check out the virtual dissection activities on

Planning Your Next Move

If you know that your science class will be dissecting this year and you want to opt out, it's best to act sooner rather than later. Tell your parents why you don't want to dissect and ask for their support for your decision. You'll probably want to find out what state laws and/or school board policies apply to you before talking to your teacher. When you do talk to your teacher about dissection, try to be calm, friendly and reasonable. You'll want to make it clear that your more than willing to do extra work to prove that you're not opting out of dissecting just so that you can slack. If your teacher isn't sympathetic to your cause, you may want to get your parents to come in with you to talk to the teacher or a principal. Good luck!

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What Do You Think of Virtual Dissection?

  • I think it's a great alternative to real dissection.
  • I think it's dumb - I'd rather dissect for real.
  • I'm not sure.
  • I don't think we should have to take science at all!

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