After hearing from science teachers that animal dissections at Champlain Valley Union High School are minimal and driven by student interest, the CVU Board opted not to change the school’s current policy.
The board asked Principal Sean McMannon, however, to keep it apprised of any changes to the curriculum or practice at the school.
In the fall, community members requested that CVU establish a policy of using digital dissection alternatives, including free virtual programs. The school’s current policy follows the state model, which allows educators to decide whether to include dissections in the curriculum and requires that students be given the choice to opt out and take part in an academic alternative.
The board decided to wait until the science department made its annual presentation on Feb. 13 to make a decision.
Nicole Gorman, who teaches AP Biology—currently the only CVU course that includes optional dissection—told the board on Feb. 13 that dissection is no longer part of the curriculum specifically required by the College Board. Dissection sometimes occurs during a portion of the course when students choose a project to delve into based on their interests. If a student is interested in anatomy, dissection might be part of his or her project.
Gorman also told the board that she often uses virtual labs as a pre-lab tool, but said that virtual dissections are “an excellent teaching tool, not a substitution,” as recorded by RETN.
She likened the virtual labs to a Wii soccer game that is realistic and gives players a good understanding of basics, but is not the same as playing in an actual game.
In past years, teachers at CVU used dissections more frequently in the classroom. But Gorman said that with recent College Board curriculum changes, dissections might not become more common in the future if a different teacher took over the course.