Did you dissect something when you were in school? Most of us can recall being asked to dissect a frog or worm when we were students. Some may have even worked on turtles, pigs, cats, or mice. For a long time dissecting real species was thought to be a necessary part of a student’s formal education. What about now?
The American Humane Society argues “Dissection not only teaches children the anatomy of only a single species, but it also teaches them that it is all right to disregard another’s life for the sake of learning.” According to the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the problem is serious:
“Each year in the U.S., an estimated 20 million animals are abused for cruel, archaic teaching exercises, despite the existence of superior non-animal teaching tools. Roughly half of them are killed and used for classroom dissection; others are tormented while they’re still alive in classroom biology and psychology experiments and cut apart in medical training drills.”
What does this mean for StratoStar’s high-altitude scientific balloons? Is it okay for students to use live species when conducting experimental atmospheric research? If so, what species are appropriate? How is the decision made?
These days, sophisticated computer technology can be used to accomplish much of what previously required the sacrifice of living species. Having said that, there are still times when testing on living species can yield invaluable scientific results, in addition to the experience being invaluable for the learner.
According to the National Science Teachers Association, “Keeping live animals in the classroom or laboratory makes science come alive for students,” because “animals are the touchstones to real-life experiences of students, and they tend to stimulate curiosity, motivate students, and foster learning.”
But this doesn’t give us a blank check to conduct experimental research on any species we want. The official position of the National Science Teachers Association contains a myriad of guidelines for students and teachers to follow. Among the many restrictions are the following considerations:
- The use of animals in the classroom and laboratory must be based on appropriate education objectives and adhere to school policy.
- Student experiments involving animals should not be conducted if they are likely to cause pain; induce nutritional deficiencies; or expose animals to parasites, hazardous chemicals, radiation, or toxic conditions.
- Student experiments involving animals should be presented in writing in advance, reviewed by the science teacher, and conducted under close supervision by the teacher or other trained professional.
If a teacher is unsure as to whether or not it’s appropriate to use a certain species for experimentation, especially when that experimentation may ultimately result in the death of the organism, he or she should do what we want our students to do: ask someone for help.
If you don’t know what is and isn’t okay to experiment on, then you’ve got to ask questions. One way to be certain is to share your plans with Stratostar, as we can provide science teachers and students with the necessary guidance and support.
Visit www.StratoStar.net to learn more about launching a high-altitude scientific balloon program at your school.
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