We ended 2012 with a wild afternoon of squid dissection (followed by a potluck dinner / holiday party / marshmallow roast in our back yard). 24 kids and lots of parents came over in mid december to have a hands-on science lesson. I have taught this lesson to kids in my own science classes when I was a classroom teacher, as well as in my children’s school several times, and now to the families in AFiN. It is a lesson that everyone loves once they do it.

I find that the most unenthusiastic kids in the class, who are trying desperately to find a way out of doing the dissection, are always the most enthusiastic and into it in the end. I have had kids squeal and squeal about not wanting to touch the squid (the lab requires that everyone touch the squid), and those same kids are covered head to toe in squid ink and guts within an hour with giant smiles on their faces. The reluctant ones are always the ones who don’t want to clean up because they are having so much fun. his is one of the most rewarding experiences for a teacher – to get a reluctant kid to really get excited about a messy lesson. It is my favorite part of being a science teacher (and it makes having your yard or classroom covered in stinky squid completely worth it!)

Squid dissection directions can be found on the internet, but I use an old lab that I acquired as a student teacher at Rice from my mentor teacher Lynn Young. The lab is easier than most because you use frozen “dirty” (guts not removed) squid from the seafood store. Then you use paper plates (white), scissors and tweezers instead of knives to cut the squid open. This makes it easier, cheaper, and safer for younger kids to do.

The lab starts out with kids looking at the external anatomy of the squid: arms, tentacles, mouth, etc… Then they move on to looking at the beak of the squid and seeing how similar it is in shape to the beak of a bird of prey. It is strong, pointed and hooked just like an eagle’s beak. As the kids go through the lab, they identify most of the internal parts of the squid – eventually cutting it open and finding hearts, gills, siphon, reproductive organs, etc.. The culminating task in the lab is to pull out the pen and pop the ink sac and write your name on your paper with the ink and pen. The kids always like that part.

After the lab, we bleached the tweezers and scissors and threw away the paper plate (dissection trays), and wiped down the tables. I set up wash buckets for the kids’ hands (soap, water, and then a final dip in vanilla water).

During this activity, my reward was not the reluctant child engaging in the lab, it was the focused involvement of the parents. I was so impressed with the parents in our group during this lab. They were so interested and engaged – it was truly inspiring to see. So, thanks parents (and grandparent)!

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