School uses syn­thetic frogs for dis­sec­tion; real frogs leap for joy

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - Dwhit­[email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

COM­MEN­TARY few class­mates were strangely in­trigued by the prospect of pok­ing around in­side a frog’s belly.

They went on to be doc­tors or med­i­cal re­searchers. The rest of us went on to lesser ca­reers that did not re­quire smelling formalde­hyde.

That ed­u­ca­tional rite of pas­sage may be end­ing, which is good for many rea­sons. Per­haps the only down­side is fu­ture gen­er­a­tions won’t be able to share their icky dis­sec­tion sto­ries.

That means they won’t be able to joke about what hap­pened with the ca­dav­ers of the frogs and cats when dis­sec­tion lessons were over.

More than one frog ended up as a hood or­na­ment in the stu­dent park­ing lot. I heard of a teacher who rou­tinely staged a cat ca­daver cos­tume con­test.

Stu­dents would dress up their spec­i­mens as foot­ball play­ers, beauty queens or the prin­ci­pal. I’ll ad­mit I still have to sti­fle a laugh at the thought of a line of dead cats im­i­tat­ing the Ra­dio City

Rock­ettes.

Note to to­day’s youth — Be Bet­ter!

Even a frog de­serves death with dig­nity. In fact, dis­sected frogs don’t de­serve death at all.

“Frogs are cru­elly stolen from their homes in the wild and are killed specif­i­cally for dis­sec­tion in class­rooms,” ac­cord­ing to PETA.

We shouldn’t equate frogs with the Lind­bergh baby, but PETA alarmists have a point with this one. Frogs have been around for mil­lions of years, pro­vid­ing a nightly cho­rus of croak­ing along rivers and lakes as the sun sets.

There were so many along the Nile River an­cient Egyp­tians de­picted the god of fer­til­ity as a frog named He­qet. Cen­turies later, Jim Hen­son de­picted a frog named as Ker­mit as the lead Muppet, and mil­lions of kids had an am­phib­ian hero.

Ker­mit’s still around, but more than 200 frog species have van­ished since 1970. Re­searchers fear many more will be­come ex­tinct due to habi­tat loss, dis­ease, com­mer­cial trade and pol­lu­tion.

Frogs help the ecosys­tem hum along, act­ing as preda­tors and as prey. Sci­en­tists can gauge the health of rivers, ponds and marshes by the croak­ing.

“If they go si­lent, there could be bad stuff hap­pen­ing,” Christophe­r J. Rax­wor­thy, a her­petol­o­gist at the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, told the New York Times.

PETA es­ti­mates 10 mil­lion an­i­mals are dis­sected an­nu­ally in the U.S. The im­pact of dis­sec­tion on the frog pop­u­la­tion is de­bat­able. Even if it’s min­i­mal, PETA says it “can foster cal­lous­ness and in­sen­si­tiv­ity to­ward an­i­mals and na­ture.”

I sup­pose dress­ing a dead cat as Richard Nixon to win a cos­tume con­test qual­i­fies. PETA has videos of a teacher jug­gling dead frogs and stu­dents us­ing cat in­testines as a jump rope.

Now along comes SynFrog, the life-like model. It’s man­u­fac­tured by SynDaver, which man­u­fac­tur­ers all sorts of pre­tend an­i­mals, hu­man body parts and var­i­ous ac­ces­sories.

Syn­thetic and vir­tual ca­dav­ers are the fu­ture of dis­sec­tion. Who knew it would ar­rive first in Pasco County?

“We are ex­cited to an­nounce that Mitchell High School is the first in the world to use SynFrogs in sci­ence labs,” Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Kurt Brown­ing pro­claimed in a state­ment.

A SynFrog costs $150, but it’s re­us­able and more eco­nom­i­cal than real frogs, which cost $5 to $15. There also are ben­e­fits money can’t buy.

“Kids are in­volved,” J.W. Mitchell Prin­ci­pal Jes­sica Schultz said. “They are finger deep in frog guts, but it’s all syn­thetic, so the smell isn’t there, the stigma isn’t there.”

You know what else won’t be there? The sto­ries.

Call it one small step for man, one gi­ant leap for frogs that might have be­come hood or­na­ments.

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