Biology Lesson a Little Too Raw for Mass. Parents

By Andrew Moseman | November 23, 2009 4:41 pm

embryo220Tales of grown-ups trying to ruin science in the schools usually seem to involve anti-evolutionists. But in Massachusetts, science education has clashed with a different force: squeamishness.

We here at Discoblog love the yuck factor of science. Can’t get enough of it. But for some parents in Sandwich, Massachusetts, a presentation in their kids’ 5th grade class went too far. From MyFoxBoston:

Parents of some fifth-graders at a Sandwich school were horrified when their teacher decided to invite a presenter to class who showed them cell development at different stages of growth.

It happened during a class last Thursday at the Forestdale School. The teacher allegedly had the presenter come into her class with embryos, hearts and lungs at different stages of development.

Besides concerns that their kids were exposed to—gasp!—biology during a science glass, some Sandwich parents also complained that the fifth-graders were allowed to handle jars containing formaldehyde. Fair enough. Formaldehyde is dangerous stuff that shouldn’t be handled without supervisors… like a science teacher and the pathologist assistant who gave the presentation.

Between embryos and chemicals, perhaps a protective parent freak-out was inevitable. But hopefully fear of reprisal won’t scare this teacher or others away from teaching tactics that actually might work. As one parent told a local TV station, “It was a great class, my son actually commented on what a great class it was.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: Cheerleaders, Professor Team Up for Science
DISCOVER: Creationism Lurks in Public High Schools
The Intersection: Is America Scientifically Illiterate?

Image: flickr / lunar caustic

  • Andy

    These parents would have been extra, extra horrified at the pig lungs (from the local slaughter house) that my mom brought in when we studied the respiratory system in 5th grade. We kids got to handle them and everything! Truth be told, that’s one of the few middle school science lessons that I actually remember! Of course, this was also in South Dakota, where people tend to be a little more rational about parts of dead stuff.

  • Ian

    In a way I can understand the reaction. It is sometimes beyond comprehension to see something that normally exists, in this case, inside the womb, outside the womb.

    I’m not sure what age 5th grade is over the states – but they sound old enough perhaps to have accepted this. Perhaps it should have been backed up by other means of visualising the development of the unborn child – Lennart Nillson book ‘A child is born’ is amazing, as is ‘In the Womb’ set of DVDs by NG.

  • Gwenny

    LOL I was in fourth grade when I got my first dissecting kit for Christmas. My best friend that year was the daughter of a surgeon. He invited me over to his house and taught Laura and I how to dissect a worm, cricket and crawdad, which were preserved in formaldehyde. A few month later my cat had kittens on the foot of my bed on Easter morning. It doesn’t seem to have unduly traumatized me.

    There’s protecting kids and there’s being stupid. This fall in “being stupid”.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar