Educator Center

A Step By Step Tutorial of Virtual Dissection

By Laura Ducceschi, AAVS Education Director

Given the number of students who ethically object to dissection, and the growing number of educators who are switching from wet labs to dissection alternatives because of the educational effectiveness they offer, CD-ROM dissection programs have become quite popular. There are hundreds of choices that educator or students have when selecting the right dissection alternative for their classrooms, and Animalearn's The Science Bank free loan program has over 300 of these alternatives available.

Changing your classroom from one where students dissect with a scalpel to one where students dissect with a computer mouse requires nothing more than an available computer, a CD-ROM, and, of course, the computer mouse itself. What it offers, however, is the promise of an exciting, innovative, and stimulating educational experience.

It doesn't take to long for both students and educators who try CD-ROM dissection software to swear that they will never return to the old-fashioned out-of-date wet labs again. Once they familiarize themselves with how computerized dissection works, they feel very comfortable using the software, and are very satisfied with the educational results. What follows is a tutorial for Digital Frog II, one of our most popular loan requests through The Science Bank. Digital Frog II is used in classrooms at the middle school, high school, and college level, and offers a computerized dissection of the frog. The CD-ROM offers more in terms of education than dissection ever could.

The Frog in Digital

The Digital Frog II, a product of Digital Frog International, is a software program that combines full-color photography, videos, three-dimensional animations, and text to teach frog dissection, anatomy, and ecology.

The Digital Frog

Inside the program is a workbook, including assessment materials. This program is a great way to learn about frogs without the health hazards associated with formaldehyde.

Digital Frog II is suitable for both Windows and Macintosh platforms. The opening screen leads to the main menu, which allows you to choose Quick Tour, a description of how to navigate the program, Dissection, Anatomy, or Ecology.

The Digital Frog

The Dissection component contains both full-screen color photographs and video clips to lead students through a traditional frog dissection, including the body cavity organs, head structures, and leg muscles. There are instructions that inform you which cuts to make, and then you identify the organs themselves. While you are performing the dissection, there are full color videos showing the cut and stages of a dissection.

The Anatomy component provides a complete reference to all of the major body systems of the frog, using both text diagrams and animation. The major systems can be studied first at a system level and then on an organ-by-organ basis. This section includes the Respiratory system, where the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide across the respiratory membrane can be viewed; Musculoskeletal system, where joints can be manipulated; Circulatory system, where the path of oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood through a three-chambered heart is followed and compared with two and four chambered hearts;

2, 3, & 4 Chambered Hearts

Cellular division with meiosis and mitosis animations. In the section titled Interacting Systems, you can study each system's role in basic body functions. The Compare to Human section highlights the differences between frog and human anatomy.

The Ecology component looks at the life cycle of frogs, their behavior, and their biodiversity, with information on 18 frogs native to North and South America.

The Life Cycle

Information about the plight of declining frog populations and why this is happening is discussed. This section also includes common behaviors and external pressures and environmental concerns relating to frog populations.


By choosing the Dissection Module, you will be asked to identify the parts of the frog. This is done by using your computer mouse to point to each of the frog's external features, which highlights each in red with a flashing checkmark. Moving the mouse over the video window allows you to rotate the frog to see external features from all angles.

First, select a part of the frog to dissect. To begin the dissection, point to one of the white dots, which changes the cursor into a scalpel, allowing you to make the first cut. If the incisions are not made correctly, the program does not register the cuts until they are correctly performed. On the left hand side of the screen, there is a video that demonstrates the incisions.

Continue the dissection by cutting through the layer of muscle on the frog's abdomen, which takes you to a full-screen picture of the frog's internal organs. To simulate an actual dissection, you must dissect in the correct order. If you click on the wrong organ, such as the stomach, there will be a message which directs you to dissect the overlaying organs. Similar to the first step in the dissection, you need to identify each of the visible structures and then make the appropriate cuts.

Then, a video will play, showing the removal of the particular organ. Following the video, you can view a close-up of the organ and identify the internal structures or a function, which takes you to a corresponding anatomy screen.

The Anatomy screen allows you to learn more about the function of the frog's organ and body systems, showing things you would not be able to see in an actual dissection. The buttons on each of the anatomy screens link to related screens, showing how one organ works in relation to the system as a whole or giving more detailed information on important aspects of an organ.



One of our most popular CD-ROM dissection programs available, Digital Frog II allows you to repeat a dissection without harming frogs. Having this ability to repeat and reinforce your learning experience and become highly skilled and knowledgeable is something that CD-ROM dissections can offer, but not traditional wet lab dissections.

With the quality of CD-ROM dissection alternatives available, we are likely to see the numbers of students requesting an alternative to dissection increase significantly.