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Activity

Brain dissection

Summary: 
Dissect a real lamb brain and identify its parts.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Science topic (2005 curriculum connection): 
Life Science: Needs of Living Things (grade 1)
Life Science: Animal Growth and Changes (grade 2)
Life Science: Human Body (grade 5)
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Lessons activity is in: 
Materials: 
  • lamb brain from local butcher - cerebellum and hind brain still attached if possible
  • tray to contain brain and blood
  • sharp penknife
  • soap and water for clean up
Procedure: 

This activity is how to dissect the brain before a lesson.
Follow the description of the parts of the brain, and associated activities, in the brain lesson.

The brain will probably already be cut, with left and right sides separated.
If not, slice it in half.
Look at the parts: cortex, cerebellum, mid and hind brain, corpus callosum: see labelled image at www.biologycorner.com/anatomy/sheepbrain/brain_dissect07.jpg

Discuss the functions of the parts:
cortex: thinking, reasoning, also optic, motor and olfactory areas.
cerebellum: fine motor control
mid and hind brain: basic processes such as breathing, heart rate, sleeping, waking etc

The intact lamb brain can be stored in the fridge for days if covered in saran wrap to prevent drying out.

To see more cut the brain with a sharp penknife.
Cut parallel to the cut already made separating the left and right halves, but more lateral, to reveal the striatum and possibly the hippocampus.
Cut through part of the cortex to show the white and grey matter (the myelinated axons and the pinkish cell bodies).

Great images of the dissection at:
http://www.biologycorner.com/anatomy/sheepbrain/sheep_dissection.html
More nice photos at:
www.exploratorium.edu/memory/braindissection

Notes: 

Store the brain wrapped in saran wrap - it can also be lifted and moved on its wrap too.
I tried storing in water - no good as the brain swelled up.
I tried storing in salted water, the same concentration as cerebrospinal fluid (40g salt in 500ml water). The brain outside got mushy faster than simply wrapped in saran wrap, though it may have held its shape better. Stick with saran wrapping.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teacher: 
Christy Wong
Donna Greening
Graeme Cotton
Ingrid
Louise Seto
Paul An
Romy Cooper
Shannon Stamp
Teaching site: 
Carnarvon Elementary
General Gordon Elementary
General Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
McBride Elementary
ProD for Elementary teachers
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Gordon Elementary Science Club