They’re the first school in the world to use synthetic frogs for dissection
Who doesn’t remember the first (and likely only) time they dissected an animal? While some (including myself) may have dissected an an owl pellet instead (later piecing together the bones of the small rodent it ate), many others have taken a scalpel to a dead frog. It’s a middle school and/or high school rite-of-passage experience that hasn’t changed much since around the 1920s when the lesson was introduced to schools — that is, until one Florida high school decided to do away with the real frogs and opted for synthetic.
In fact, the school claims, they’re the first school in the world to use synthetic frogs for dissection.
Instead of leaning over a dead, formaldehyde-laced frog, scalpel in hand and goggles strapped onto their faces, students at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida are dissecting SynFrogs, anatomically-correct synthetic frogs that teaches students about organ systems without harming living animals or using hazardous chemicals, like the aforementioned formaldehyde. Everything about the synthetic frogs are realistic, from the frog’s skin and the size and color of its removable organs to the amount of pressure you have to apply to cut the frog’s breastbone.
“SynFrog is made with twenty-first century SynTissue, a library of synthetic wet tissues that mimic the look, feel and physical properties of real live tissue. SynFrog is made to represent a live female frog in every way possible, including its size and the texture and color of its skin and organs. It also features a realistic reproductive system, complete with eggs,” the product description states.
“When you bring these synthetic frogs into the actual classroom, nobody is going to be off-put by the fact that it was alive because it’s synthetic, of course,” Nabil Koney, a senior at the high schools, tells Here & Now. “So I think that reduces some of the barriers for some of the other students in the classroom.”
SynFrogs was created at SynDaver, a Tampa-based company. J.W. Mitchell High School Principal Jessica Schultz and her colleagues helped the company create the synthetic frogs, which cost $150 each. The company then recycles the used frogs. According to Schultz, the school used to buy between 200 to 300 frogs per year from a scientific supply company. And according to PETA, millions of frogs are killed each year for dissection.
“Once a student is finished with the frog, we gather them up and we send them back to the company,” Schultz says. “And they complete whatever process they complete and they create new frogs.”
Students aren’t the only ones applauding the change. “I think it’s a great idea. You can dissect real animals in med school but it’s really unnecessary for high school kids,” Amy Chilton writes on Facebook. While on Twitter, it’s receiving just as much positive feedback.
SynDaver didn’t stop at frogs, either. They also have a synthetic dogs, cats, and more.
“With SynFrog, there’s no longer any need to harm real frogs for the sake of enhancing the educational experience,” SynDaver says.