Most of us remember that week in high school science class—frog dissection. The gagging, tears, crass jokes. Some kids were able to opt out depending on how kind your teacher was and how extreme the reaction or offense was. But most of us had to slice through the frog and parcel out his little organs, taking diligent notes on paper splashed with formaldehyde.
But one Florida high school recently eschewed the use of real frogs in dissection by bringing in synthetic but incredibly realistic frogs—and they hope this will change how dissections are handled in classrooms all over the country.
“The experience is all about understanding the relationship between organs, what they look like, what they feel like,” said Chris Sakezles, the founder and CEO of Syndaver Labs, a Tampa company that also makes synthetic human cadavers and other life-like human and animal body parts. “We do that without the ethical concerns about having to kill an animal. Without exposing them to biohazards.”
According to PETA and school officials, J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey was the first in the world to try out this new technology. It all began when school Principal Jessica Schultz brought her pet rabbit to the vet. The veterinarian, who also worked with Syndaver Labs, chatted with Schultz about Syndaver’s work with synthetic animals for veterinary students. Schultz then brought some of her students to Syndaver, and they created a lesson plan regarding synthetic frogs.
The first of the fake frogs were dissected in November.
“Kids went to town, to be quite honest,” said Schultz. “We had kids that literally deboned the fake frogs.”
17-year-old senior Nail Koney-Laryea said the frogs had a realistic look and feel to them.
“If you blindfolded me before I touched it, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
“I was actually scared to cut it because I kept thinking about cutting into a real frog,” said junior Miah Ulibarri said.
The frogs were appropriately slimy, and when students cut inside the stomach, they were able to see individual organs that didn’t explode upon one wrong touch.
While other students had opted out of dissecting a real frog, Schultz noted that no student opted out of dissection with the fake frog.
Unfortunately, the cost of a synthetic frog might make this option less feasible for many schools. A synthetic frog costs $150 and PETA helped fund the project at J.W. Mitchell. But Sakezles says Syndaver is trying to cut the price through automated production and recycling materials. He also said the company is developing fetal pigs, rats, and other animals for classroom dissection.
“The plan is to completely replace the use of real animals,” he said.