Bear Dissection

Seward High School students (from left) Chloe Lastimosa, Stella Dow, and Robin Cronin dissect a black bear leg.

On Tuesday, January 31, students at Seward High School took advantage of a unique opportunity. The week before, a Seward resident had to put down a young black bear. This resident offered the skinned carcass to the newest science teacher, Amelia Bagheri. The timing was perfect, as Bagheri is currently teaching an anatomy and physiology class.

With that being said, the question still remains: How is a bear carcass a great opportunity for high school students? The answer presents itself as one of the most memorable science class traditions – dissection!

The bear, although small, was a great way to show students in a hands-on format what the anatomy they have been studying in books looks like in real life. As she received the bear skinned and gutted, Bagheri took this opportunity to have students observe how musculature works and how it connects to the skeletal system.

To do so, she had the students break into four groups, each group receiving one leg to dissect. To quote Bagheri, with each leg, the students focused on “the structure of (the) muscles, making a note of the tendons that connect the muscle to the bone.” They also took time to note the epimysium, “which is a layer of connective tissue around each muscle.”

She then instructed them to remove the musculature, taking time to observe how the various joints work, and how the muscles, bones, tendons, and more, combine to create a functioning system. Lastly, she brought the students together to complete the rest of the dissection, taking the opportunity to observe glands that are part of the endocrine system, another recent focus in class.

Seward High School junior Chloe Lastimosa (seen using the knife in the dissection picture) stated that it was a “very cool” experience. Senior Allie Dixon “had a lot of fun with it,” finding the bear anatomy interesting in how it compares to human anatomy.

This opportunity is something that has become increasingly rare in schools across the United States, despite hands-on education being one of the most effective ways for students to learn. Thus, the support of the Seward community for its student body could clearly be seen through this experience – a truly Alaskan experience.

Teak Barhaug is a senior at Seward High School and often writes for the school’s online paper, SHStoday.org.