The handful of kids in Maria Clevenger’s dissection day camp at Greenbush intently watched the overhead projector Monday afternoon as she prepared to open a fetal piglet.



Clustered in groups of four and clad in oversized white lab coats and goggles, they stared as she drew her scalpel down the chest and abdomen of the grayish, deflated piglet.

The handful of kids in Maria Clevenger’s dissection day camp at Greenbush intently watched the overhead projector Monday afternoon as she prepared to open a fetal piglet.

Clustered in groups of four and clad in oversized white lab coats and goggles, they stared as she drew her scalpel down the chest and abdomen of the grayish, deflated piglet.

“Hold your index finger on the back of the blade for control,” said Clevenger. “And remember, pigs, like people, are made of water, so there’s going to be some juice.”

Then it was their turn. The young scientists had already decided who would be the butcher — earlier in the day they had taken apart owl pellets, cow eyes and frogs, but some had left early, the thought of carving up infant pigs being too much to stomach.

Clevenger, who had previously taught math and science in Fort Scott before coming to Greenbush, talked the kids through the steps as they made their incisions, her assistant, Susan Foster, moving from table to table to assist them and ensure they followed safety precautions. As they probed the pigs, they learned how to locate the kidneys, liver, intestines and heart, among others.

Interestingly, no one wore protective gloves, and the acrid stench of formaldehyde was but an afterthought; the chemical, in use for hundreds of years as an embalming fluid, has fallen into disfavor. Instead, the company that provides Greenbush with its dissecting animals uses a non-toxic formula called Perfect Solution, and is safe under normal conditions.

The goal of the workshop, Clevenger said, is to expose the kids early to areas of science they might not otherwise get to see; as government aid to schools diminishes, districts are forced to cut exercises once taken for granted.

“I asked them how many wanted to go into the medical field, and a lot of them did,” Clevenger said. “This helps them decide ‘Yes, I can do this,’ or ‘No, it’s not for me.’ And it can help them determine what classes they want to take down the road.”

One of her students, 11-year-old Alaina Bualle, dissected a pig by herself. Her group mates had decided they did not want to participate in the dissection, but Bualle said she had previously dissected cow eyes at her school in Arma and did not mind the procedure. As other students, some of them tentatively, poked around inside the piglets, Bualle, with little help, dove right in.

“I like this stuff because it looks cool and it’s different,” Bualle said.

Her interest stems from the detective shows she watches with her father on TV, and Bualle said with frankness that she wants to pursue a career as a forensic anthropologist — someone who studies human remains, often to determine the cause of death when a corpse is in an advanced stage of decomposition — when she grows up.
Bualle smiled as she spoke and clearly was having a good time. She said, somewhat mischievously, that dissecting the pigs was her favorite part of the workshop.

“I like ribs and bacon,” she grinned.