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(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)December 15, 2000

(Mahwah) — “With the shortage of frogs and the growing number of students who don’t want to cut animals, virtual dissection provides a viable alternative,” says Darryl Harris, a graduate student at Ramapo College of New Jersey and a biology teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson. Ramapo College recently was awarded a $23,600 grant from the Bernice Barbour Foundation to fund the expansion of Harris’ design for an interactive Website and CD-ROM. It will be used as a teaching tool in the College’s master’s in educational technology courses for secondary and elementary grade teachers learning how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom, and will be available to teachers nationwide through the Web and CD-ROM.

Harris designed the site, which details the wing muscles and complete skeleton of a chicken for his master’s degree project at Ramapo College. His high school class loved it. “The chicken is an animal urban kids are familiar with,” Harris says. “Now every time my students eat chicken, a biology lesson will be reinforced. Some were even motivated to learn more about biology and anatomy because of the program.”

Harris’ virtual model is called Food For Thought. Students learn sophomore-level biology concepts of anatomy, musculature, and bone structure in an appealing environment. Using the program, students are able to examine the chicken skeleton, tendons in the foot, and muscles of the wing. Students in Harris’ class used their knowledge from “Food For Thought” to further understand human anatomy.

With the Barbour Foundation funding, “Food For Thought” will be expanded to include more detailed views of the skeleton, muscles, and digestive system of the chicken. Working with Dr. Rena Bacon as his faculty mentor, Harris will create a set of digital photographs of the chicken anatomy. He will then organize these images into a logical dissection of the chicken. The ensuing modules will allow for advanced student learning, and include explanatory notes for the teacher

There are a number of advantages to using a virtual dissection of the chicken. The virtual model saves school districts space and funds since animals will no longer be used for dissection. Many students object to dissection for ethical reasons, and the virtual model does not sacrifice principles or effective learning. Lastly, a virtual model reinforces the concept that all animals, even those used for food, should be respectfully and compassionately treated.

The expanded program will be made available both on the World Wide Web and on a CD-ROM. By having the program available in both media, teachers throughout the country can have access to the complete Food For Thought program. Students will be able to review the material outside the lab and at their own pace. They can review and examine the dissection as many times as needed. The use of this program has the potential to replace the need to dissect frogs in high school laboratory science courses.

Previous grants from the Barbour Foundation funded the establishment of a computer learning center for the biological sciences that enabled students to use computer simulations and computer-assisted learning models as alternatives to dissection. Ramapo was among the first to use this software in the undergraduate classroom. The computer simulations enabled the College to eliminate live animal experimentation (such as those performed on pithed frogs) in anatomy and physiology classes.

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Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice, has been named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others. Ramapo College is also distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by CollegesofDistinction.com, boasts the best campus housing in New Jersey on Niche.com, and is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools.

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Technology, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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