Behind the smell in the science hall


Seniors Damini Patel and Halona Roberson open up a rat during the first dissection of Anatomy and Physiology class.

All eyes were on the rat guts on every table. Somehow, no matter how many diagrams of hearts I’ve seen, nothing is compared to opening the ribcage and finding a real, actual heart. We identified heart chambers, and Mr. Whiz told stories about all the strange things he has dissected over the years. And then from somewhere in the room, above the grossed-out noises and the sound of scissors cutting through fur, a kid calls, “Clear!”

It’s that time of year again, when the science hallway smells like embalming fluid and the rat selfies flood social media. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw the buckets of rats in the back of the class. It was fascinating to see how strange and perfect the organs were, but I think it was even more interesting to watch the students peeling rat skin and seeing intestines for the first time. Even if rat guts don’t phase you, there’s nothing quite like the dynamic in Mr. Whiz’s room when the gloves and plastic bags come out. These are some of my favorite moments from watching my Anatomy and Physiology class:

15 things I overheard during rat dissections

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  1. “I’m going to move my jacket away from where we’re cutting.”
  2. “Will you pick up my glasses and put them on my face?”
  3. “These are not the world’s greatest embalmed specimens that I’ve seen. Just drain the juice. It’ll continue juicing for a while, and then it’ll stop.”
  4. “Poor guy. I’m so sorry, little Phillipe. It’s okay.”
  5. “Your nose only itches when your hands are the dirtiest.”
  6. “You can hear the tissue coming off the skin.”
  7. “I thought when you dissected, you just cut it straight open.”
  8. “You can do it. No mercy.”
  9. “Will we get to see the intestines?” “Yeah, if you can get all the tissues off. Just stretch it out like a noodle.”
  10. “Wring out the skin a little.” “Oh, God.” “Awesome!”
  11. “It’s biodegradable!”
  12. “Are we going to be doing this every day?”
  13. “There’s a kid in the other class who strokes his rat.”
  14. “I feel the worst when I look at her face.”
  15. “Fat.” “You’re fat!” “No, this fat, right here!” “Oh! Sorry.”

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