It's not easy being green
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — It takes guts to be part of Elizabeth Niro’s science class. She expects hands-on participation, especially when it means kids will be knuckle-deep in frogs.
Lester Middle School students here spent Wednesday morning dissecting frogs, the middle school rite of passage that had students squealing, gasping and by the way, learning.
Wrapped in rubber gloves, black aprons and yellow goggles, they spent their morning dismembering, poking and prodding the giant frogs.
“It gets everyone hands-on,” Niro said. “It’s different than doing it on a computer.”
The dissection was the final activity in the body systems the students have been studying. They learned their first day of class they’d be cutting open the amphibians, then virtually dissected frogs in the computer. But this time it was all real — from the webbed feet to exploring the frogs’ final meals.
“This is something they look forward to,” Niro said. “I tell them I’ve never had anyone pass out, faint or vomit. We do have a few squeals, but they get over squeamishness pretty quickly.”
Trisha Carlile and Michael Flynn McKenzie stared at the dark-green creature filling their laboratory dish.
“It’s nasty," said Trisha, 13. “I don’t want to touch it. It’s a lot different than the computer. It’s more real.”
So she opted to leave the dirty work to Michael. “Just grab it with your hand. I dare you,” she told him.
“The worst part is we have a girl frog and we have to pick out the eggs. The best part is I have Flynn to cut it open.”
“I like cutting it up,” Michael said, as he worked a pair of scissors into the frog’s jaw. He bare-handed the frog, not letting wet skin or piles of intestines deter him.
First to go was the jaw, so they could get a good look at the tongue and tiny sets of teeth. Next, they pinned the legs to their dish and sliced open the abdomen.
“How many eggs are actually in there?” Michael asked as he scooped out the tiny black dots that filled most of the body cavity.
“It looks like raspberries,” Trisha said. “The rest of that stuff looks like shrimp. It’s like a little buffet … a buffet I wouldn’t eat.”
Then Trisha remembered that lunch period followed their science class. “Guess what?” she said. “I’m not going to eat.”
Not everyone got to scoop frog eggs. Niro peered at another frog at the classroom’s other end. “They’ve got a boy,” she called out. “And he’s got a beautiful set of testes.”
The in-depth body parts search “sets them up for high school,” Niro said. “A large majority of these kids will go on to biology, where they’ll do sheep eyes and even fetal pigs. It’s important for them to have a positive experience on the frogs so they can get everything out of those lessons down the road.”
“I wouldn’t do this again if I didn’t have to,” Trisha said. “It’s not something I’d do for fun.”
“I would,” Michael said. “I enjoy looking at stuff from the inside.”
“You’re weird,” Trisha quipped.
“You’re afraid,” he retorted.
Frogs and 13-year-olds: Some things never change.