It takes a lot of guts to complete this semester’s anatomy assignment at Youngstown Secondary. Instead of the usual dissection project involving a starfish or perch, the class has moved up the biological chain to a specimen who often doubles as a member of the family.
“Cats are so close to the human anatomy,” said science teacher Tina Vaupel. “Right now we are going through muscle tissue and comparing it to what humans have.”
Co-teacher Lesley Orlando said the students have risen to the challenge and are doing a great job. Most of the students are already studying some aspect of the health care field at Choffin Career Center.
Both teachers acknowledged how hard it was initially for the students, many of whom have cats as beloved family pets.
“I ran out of the room crying when they first pulled out the cats,” said Shakila Korneagay, who is studying to become a registered nurse.
Jonta Lafontaine is still undecided about the assignment.
“I like that I can see the muscles,” he said. “I don’t like touching it – it’s gross. I have four cats at home.”
Jhordan Jackson is studying physical therapy in order to become an athletic trainer. He said he enjoys science and examining animals of all varieties.
“First I thought I wouldn’t like it,” he said. “But then I realized I would have to do it sooner or later. Now I like it.”
Tanisha Scott said at first she was squeamish about the process. But she is already studying to become a pediatric nurse and wants to learn all about anatomy in order to become a registered nurse. She’s already discovered some forensic clues about her specimen.
“We think she might have been pregnant,” she said. “She’s got a lot of fat.”
Joy Lucas wants a career in early childhood and thinks the anatomy class can help her teach kids about muscles and exercising. She is more comfortable with the dissection process now than she was at the beginning.
“I ran out of the room,” she said. “My principal was the person who made me feel comfortable. He talked to me and walked me through it, step by step. It took some time to get used to the smell and the visual part of the cat.”
Director Ray Pallante credits his science teachers with their ability to teach a difficult assignment.
“We couldn’t do this without the teachers who are willing to be flexible with how they present the material,” he said.
Above all, he added, the students have come a long way in order to do this kind of study.
“Our students are not used to this level of expectation and experience,” Pallante said. “But they’re always willing to learn and there’s no better way than with your hands and your eyes. The lab is a very important component of a scientific education.”