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Dissecting Pig Hearts Teaches Students About Anatomy

WARNING: video contains potentially graphic content

July 19, 2021 -- After studying human anatomy for six weeks, middle school students enrolled in the 2021 Columbus City Schools Summer Experience wrapped up their learning with a unique final assignment: dissecting a real pig’s heart. 

“It was cool and disgusting at the same time,” said Makenzy Turner. “The fact that I’m holding a heart in my hands is the coolest thing ever.” 

A pig’s heart is about the same size as a human heart and very similar in terms of valves, veins, and arteries. 

“Students enrolled in the Medical class this summer centered on the heart, lungs, digestive system, muscle, and bones,” said Tara Woodford, CCS Summer Coordinator at Champion Middle School. “Dissecting a pig heart and viewing pig intestines under a microscope provided students with an opportunity to grow. Students were pushed to go outside of their comfort zone, and that is what learning is all about.”

In Tracy Roese’s seventh-grade classroom, she was dissecting the pig’s heart right along with her students. Using Zoom, Roese recorded the dissection with her cell phone camera. That way, teachers in other classrooms could follow along with their students.  

“The heart is a muscle that is tough,” said Roese. “Use the scissors to cut the heart in half, beginning at the top. Please make sure you are wearing your goggles and gloves. The formaldehyde smell is strong, powerful.” 

Once the pig heart is open and looks like two halves, “stick your finger through the aorta,” Roese instructed the students. “With your pipe cleaners, use the red one to show the arteries that carry oxygen away from your heart. Use blue pipe cleaners to show the veins that carry blood to the heart.” 

“For many of these students, this is the first time dissecting,” said sixth-grade teacher Carvell Williams. “Students get to see both chambers of the heart and stick their finger in the aorta. It’s a great activity for these students.”

This unique, hands-on learning for students results from a partnership with Columbus City Schools and the PAST Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes real science and technology belong in the classroom. Along with hands-on activities, students also learned about CPR and first-aid training.