When Laurie Wolff refused to cut up an earthworm in the name of science two years ago, the straight-A student was rewarded with a C. So much for good karma. This spring, Wolff, who just completed eighth grade at Elton M. Garrett Middle School in Boulder City, Nev., convinced her local school board that students shouldn’t be forced to dissect animals if they object on moral or ethical grounds?and can produce a note from a parent or guardian to prove it.
Thanks to a plethora of virtual dissection websites, students who want to be kind to their web-footed friends can learn all about frog anatomy without having to wield a scalpel. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory offers a virtual frog dissection kit that lets inquiring minds view a rotating digitized diagram of “Fluffy” the frog?with or without skin?whose organs can be added and subtracted at will. After exploring Fluffy inside and out, a virtual frog builder kit lets visitors test their knowledge of frog anatomy. Another site hosted by the University of Virginia offers still images and digitized video of pithed frogs being dissected.
A trip to www.froguts.com yields the most compelling online frog dissection experience. Visitors click and drag scalpels and scissors along cut marks to open skin flaps and remove organs. As they come out, just-in-time text pops up to explain the function of each organ. High-quality images and sound effects (including the snip of scissors and the whoosh of pins through skin flaps) will take you right back to junior high biology class?sans the obnoxious lab partner and revolting formaldehyde fumes.