Learning the Dissecting Planes

Charles T. Buzek John Spry School
2400 S. Marshall
Chicago IL 60603
(312) 345-1700


This paper is designed for junior high students.
Students will learn the basic vocabulary used in dissection.
Students will learn how to orient themselves on a three dimensional figure.
Students will develop the manual dexterity necessary to use scalpels in class.

Materials Needed:

Human anatomy wall chart


It will be necessary to turn the cucumber into an animal. This can be done
easily by cutting out holes on the anterior part of the cucumber to symbolize
eyes The cucumber is now a "frog". The presence of the eyes now gives the frog
an up & down position. These are referred to as the dorsal & ventral side of
the animal. The location of the eyes also gives the organism a front & back.
These are referred to as anterior & posterior. It should be noted at this point
that the cucumber/frog can be made more lifelike by placing short straws where
legs would normally be located. At this point students will be ready to begin
using their scalpels. With scalpels in hand the students will be directed to
make a shallow cut starting from the anterior end along the ventral side of the
frog. For those students too young to use a cutting instrument it may be
replaced with a Magic Marker. By the end of this part of the exercise the
students should have made a shallow incision from the anterior to the posterior
end of the frog. This cut is known as the sagittal incision. Now they will be
instructed to cut midway on the ventral side of the organism from their left to
right side. This is known as the transverse incision. The human anatomy wall
chart can be used to quiz the students about their knowledge of the dissecting
terminology. For this exercise the terms distal & proximate should be
introduced. The teacher can then ask the students to locate a certain organ by
giving them clues using the vocabulary they just learned.

Follow Up:

These terms are important to the study of life sciences & should be reviewed.
The teacher might consider all situations in a normal classroom context that
would require directions. These terms should be used in these situations. For
example students should refer these terms to their own persons while they are
in the class. Students have ventral and dorsal sides in addition to anterior
and posterior directions. Objects in relation to the student's person might
be termed as distal or proximate to them. The guiding principle for the
retention of a scientific vocabulary is, as in any language, it's constant use.

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