Frogs Are Too Cool for School

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Frogs Are Too Cool for School

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Guest post by Lesley Fox, Creator of Frogs are Cool

orange eyed green tree frog

image by flickr user rainforest_harley

For some, it’s a right of passage, a curiosity or maybe a fascination. For others it’s an upsetting, cruel or even offensive reminder of our disregard for other species. Whatever the perception, dissecting animals is controversial.

Fortunately, the BC Ministry of Education does not mandate that animals such as frogs, mice, rats, fetal pigs or insects be used as teaching tools in the K-12 provincial curriculum. In fact, all the Ministry cares about is that students simply achieve the learning outcomes for science/biology. This means to pass the course, students must demonstrate an understanding of basic anatomy and the function and location of various organs, respiratory, circulatory and other systems. To teach these learning outcomes, teachers can choose animal specimens or alternatives – the BC Ministry of Education does not take a position either way. Sadly, most teachers simply opt for old-fashioned ‘rubber-stamped’ animal dissection.

Speaking Out Against Dissection

A high school student has enough to deal with, so voicing opposition to dissection can be intimidating, particularly when the teacher is perceived to be in favour of animal dissection. In my research, many students simply believe that animal dissection is imperative, or is just “part of the course.” But rather than voicing their opposition, some students will choose to just take the easy way out and avoid the sciences altogether, or happen to become “sick” the day of the animal labs.

If a student does actually voice their concern, the teacher may provide them with an alternative assignment, library research or computer program such as Digital Frog. But other teachers may excuse students from “hands-on” participation only and encourage them to watch and/or not leave the animal lab. In rare circumstances, some teachers may give the students a failing grade. There is no particular way of dealing with students who object to dissection, it’s all up to the individual teacher.

This is the problem.

In order to ensure that all students who object to animal dissection receive fair and equal treatment, it’s important to have a specific policy about handling dissection objections on the books of each and every school district. In some Canadian districts and in some states, such a policy does exist. It’s called a Student Choice Policy. It’s a written policy that protects a students’ right to refuse dissection. The only cities in Canada that have this policy include Vancouver (BC), Toronto (ON), and South Shore (NS).

A Student Choice Policy notifies students in advance and protects the right of students to refuse to participate in animal dissections. Ideally, the policy would also be written in handbooks and/or course outlines so students understand, in advance, that they do have choice. Those who request a non-animal alternative are provided one, without hassle or jeopardizing their grade.

Getting a Policy Passed

You’d think having a Student Choice Policy would be a no-brainer. But it’s actually quite difficult to pass.

In the beginning, when first approached, most teachers and school board trustees agree that no student should be forced to participate in animal dissection. Everyone also tends to agree that adequate non-animal alternatives such as computer programs and plastic models are available.

The problem though is when you simply ask to have that in writing (an actually policy) school officials are reluctant to do it. This is where I get confused. After all, a choice isn’t a choice unless you know you have one! And if alternatives exist, why is no one willing to tell the students that?

I suspect this is because of sheer laziness. Creating new policies takes some work and maybe some science teachers don’t want to “promote” the idea of alternatives or perhaps some teachers don’t want to have to create two different tests, lesson plans or assignments. Who really knows.

What’s even weirder is that animal alternatives have so many more benefits than real animal specimens. Computer programs for example are cheaper and are more environmentally sustainable as they can be shared between classes and used over and over.

Need Your Help

In order to help facilitate change for students and animals, we need to work together as a team and voice opposition.

Frogs are Cool is an online Canadian resource helping to educate schools and the Ministry of Education about the importance of Student Choice Policies. Visit or become a fan on their facebook page.

Currently there is a Student Choice Policy campaign underway in school district #41 of Burnaby, B.C. If you would like to lend your voice or support, contact

1 Comment


January 19, 2010 at 2:07 am

If only I’d had a chance to read this way back when I was in high school. I’m very ashamed to admit that we had to dissect a cat in biology and I went along with it.

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