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Animalearn on the Cutting Edge of Alternatives to Dissection

Most high school biology classes require animal dissection as part of their anatomy unit. The procedure is polarizing: some students relish the chance to take apart a specimen, while others want nothing to do with the blood, guts, and gore.

Nicole Green would count herself among the latter. As a student, she felt that there were ways to approach anatomy education that did not involve harm to animals. So she translated that feeling to a profession: for over 20 years (and counting), Green has worked with the American Anti-Vivisection Society, based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

Green’s job as director of Animalearn, a program under the AAVS umbrella, is one of educating, connecting, and supporting teachers and students at all levels with solutions to the dissection conundrum.

The key word here? Solution.

“Our goal is not to attack [the traditional method],” says Green. The director points to research that shows non-animal methods, such as hands-on building, are just as effective for learners.

Traditional dissection often entails unseen costs that range from ecological (in the procurement of critters that are used once and then discarded) to economic (in the spending on materials and potentially harmful chemicals necessary to preserve the specimens).

Animalearn’s solutions can be found in the “Science Bank,” a loan program that makes resources available for use in classrooms across the country (at no cost!). Via the Science Bank, students in veterinary school, for example, are able to practice spaying and neutering, or bandaging and CPR techniques, before working on live animals. The Bank recently completed its 25th anniversary.

Green is always on the lookout for partners and organizations that will help further Animalearn’s goal—which is why she was excited to come across the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System at a 2013 Human Anatomy & Physiology conference in Las Vegas. The two organizations have intersected and worked together ever since; Green often carries around a MANIKEN® model to use as display at workshops she gives across the country.

Animalearn is a “two-woman show.” Bailee Henderson, Animalearn’s social media guru, is the second member of the staff. Given the limitations, Green recognizes that “we can’t be everywhere.” She takes solace in knowing that Animalearn is not the only organization seeking to decrease harm to animals in classroom use.

What’s next for Animalearn? Like other companies, the pandemic marked a need to shift from in-person workshops to virtual learning. Green and Henderson increased their online resources and expanded the Science Bank loan program. But that’s not all–Green is most proud of her recent partnership with MERGE. Starting in 2020, the two worked together to form the “Philly Schools” project, providing under-resourced schools with technology aimed at anatomy learning. Not all schools have the ability or the funds to access specimens for dissection.

And that’s where Animalearn comes in.

To listen to the full podcast covering Nicole Green and Animalearn, click here!






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