March 2, 2016

Today we started fish dissections - we will do this for three days so each child can be part of a small group that takes the fish apart. 

Everyone was so excited to see the fish (a porgy)! We started as a whole group so that everyone could at least see part of it, taking a child's suggestion that we should cut it open from the bottom and peel back the flesh to see the insides. 

Then we went to the multipurpose room, where a small group completed the dissection with me (Anna W) and Nora. We found SO many things and the kids had so many thoughts and questions.  A list of what we found and removed for closer inspection:

Gills

Eyeball

Reproductive organ

Stomach

Brain stem

Bones

"Meat"

While working, we consulted with a fish anatomy diagram to help us identify which part was which (another incorporation of our work with the kids on research methods). We speculated about the reasons for some of its parts. The fins: "Spiky to poke sharks that try to eat them." Strong scales: "To protect fish from getting cut up." Gills: "Helping it breathe." A mouth that opens super wide: ""I think it opened it's mouth that wide like a circle so it could eat." Children also made connections to their own bodies. When we looked at the fishes spine, someone commented, "We have spines in our bodies too!"

AND THEN: When we took out the stomach, we noticed it seemed very full. A fin was sticking out the end of it. With great anticipation, we pulled on the fin, and out slipped an ENTIRE small fish!! But that wasn't all. We also pulled out several small squids, and a crab claw. I wish this log could properly convey the shock and visceral excitement of watching those animals emerge - we all gasped and exclaimed over and over again!:

When we came back to the classroom for reflection meeting, we presented the stomach and its contents to the rest of the class. Everyone was awestruck, and one child asked what would happen if we opened the stomach of the small fish that had been inside our bigger porgy! What a great idea. We did, and inside its stomach, we found a tiny crustacean!! 

On top of being so plainly exciting, we couldn't have asked for a more organic lesson on the food chain - one that the children took part in leading. Afterwards, they were able to articulate what it was that they were seeing, and also understood the sizing logic behind the porgy eating a small fish, and the small fish eating an even smaller crustacean. But questions remain, and we want to support them in answering them: we are planning a deeper exploration of the sea life food chain next week.

Our fish dissection can be accurately summed up in the words of a child at the end of the work time: "I wish we could do this day again."

A few more notable observations and questions from the dissection:

"I see a nostril"

"This is disgusting! Can I touch it?"

"Well, it's definitely really dead now."

"We have meat in our bodies too, right?"

"Where do fish sleep at night? And how do they even know when it's nighttime in the ocean?"

"Is this fish a bad fish?" "It looks bad."

"My dad used to be a scientist but now he's regular."

"I'm glad I got to watch this."

(That tiny clear sphere in Nora's hand is was what was inside the fish's eyeball)