Zach Crews, an agricultural educator at Slater School in Slater, Mo., knows that memorable classroom learning moments tend to stick with students. And there's not much more memorable than teaching a student to castrate livestock.
And while he'd love to be able to teach them on a live animal, it's simply not practical. So Crews came up with the idea for a mock scrotum castration activity during his senior year in college, when he was challenged to create an activity he could use when student teaching during his senior year. Because he always has enjoyed animal science and looked forward to using his experiences in the livestock industry to help students learn more about it, he planned an animal science lab activity. And because he knew hands-on learning helps bridge the gap between urban-raised students and the farm experience, he chose something that would be sure to get their attention.
"Castration of male animals is a traditional practice that happens on a daily basis in the livestock industry, but for you to be able to have your students take part in this practice, it takes a ton of planning," Crews notes "From finding the animals and a producer that is willing to let you show students this process to teaching students the proper safety techniques and procedures of this common practice, it could be a nightmare for a teacher to actually do a live castration in class, and this is where my mock scrotum comes into play."
While teaching health practices in his Advanced Animal Science Class, Crews used the mock castration/scrotum lab to help teach students the basic process without having to use a live animal in the classroom or a farm lab.
"I use this lab where students get to identify the parts of the scrotum, and build a better understanding of how the process is done without having to deal with blood or weak-stomached students."
Crews notes that he uses Jell-O to fill the mock scrotums. This gives students a focal point for their silly comments. He's even been known to challenge jokesters to eat the inside of the scrotum.
To make the scrotum, Crews used the following materials: a large balloon, two water balloons, two smaller-sized Styrofoam balls, a large needle, larger-sized ribbon, a package of Jell-O and a funnel. To assemble the mock scrotum, the first step is to cut a piece of ribbon about 6 inches long and thread it through the eye of the needle. Next, push the needle through both Styrofoam balls and tie the ends of the ribbon off on both sides of the balls. This creates the testacies and spermatic cord. Then take a water balloon and stretch over each of the Styrofoam balls, creating the sack in which the testicles are held. Once this is complete, take the larger balloon and stuff the water balloon-wrapped balls into it, creating the scrotum. (Crews suggests blowing a little air into the balloon to help it stretch out.) Complete the project up by inserting the funnel into the balloon, pouring in the Jell-O, tying off the balloon and putting it into the refrigerator for it to set up. The Jell-O represents the blood and inner liquids within the scrotum.
In his lab, Crews provides each student with a scalpel and mock scrotum. He then shows them the removal process of each testicle by slicing open the large balloon, pushing the individual ball toward himself, slicing the water balloon open, cutting the cord and removing of each testicle. He then has each student complete the process.
Crews was the 2012 Ideas Unlimited award winner for Region IV. For more information about the Ideas Unlimited award program and all other NAAE award programs, visit http://www.naae.org/awards/applications/.
The Ideas Unlimited award is sponsored by Delmar Cengage Learning.
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