Biology 3-4 students explore complex systems of sharks and other organisms


Photo by Trey Behling

Biology teacher Nathan Gregier wanders his classroom in a shark mask once each year as his students dissect the creatures.

When it comes to having her students perform dissections, Biology 3-4 teacher Christine Sundly emphasizes the importance of studying the complexity of organisms.

“Mainly what we do through dissections is try to teach the way animals change through the different phylum so we look at the difference in respiratory systems for example,” Sundly said.

“We always start with the simpler animal — not that one animal changes into another — but we look at the simplistic organism then we move to more complex organisms.”
Sundly said the more complex an animal is, the more complex its structures are.

“So by doing various dissections we can see that increase of complexity of the structures,” she said.

Learning about dissections is important, Sundly stressed.

“I think the main thing is that humans tend to — and I’ve said this in Bio 3-4, too — put ourselves up on a pedestal,” she said.

Sundly, who said her favorite thing to dissect is a squid, pointed out that in order for students to understand the animals, they need to know that some animals don’t require certain things like a respiratory system, and they aren’t less important than humans.

“We think we’re the most important things ever, and that’s not true. We just don’t know a whole lot about some of these animals,” she said. “So maybe we’re the weaker ones because we need lungs.”

Senior Emily Edmister, a former student of Biology 3-4, said that a lot of things struck her interest in the class while dissecting things like sharks, frogs and squid.

“I basically enjoyed seeing all the different body parts, seeing the different origins.” ”

— Emily Edmister

“I basically enjoyed seeing all the different body parts, seeing the different origins,” Edmister said.

She explained the most challenging part to her is taking notes in the class but at the same time getting through bone when dissecting.

Edmister said the shark is especially challenging.

“You want to see the brain, [so] you have to cut through the skull,” she said.

Edmister said she is interested in using the skills she learned in forensics.

“I want to learn about the different body parts in humans seeing how different it is from animals,” she said. “I want to learn how to do autopsies and [forensics].”
Current Biology 3-4 student senior Brooke Crabtree, said her favorite thing to dissect is the sharks.

She is interested in biology more than any other science classes, she added.

“I really like classes [that have] to do with learning about life and growth,” Crabtree said.

“Chemistry is not my strong suit, so just learning about life and other types of reproductive organisms interests me a lot more than any other type of science classes.”

Crabtree also admits there is something challenging in the class.

“Probably just being confident in that you’re doing the right thing and cutting the right thing open and knowing that it’s OK if you mess up just to have confidence in yourself.”