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November 1, 2011 > Logan teacher wins kudos for dissection alternatives

Logan teacher wins kudos for dissection alternatives

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Courtesy of Nicole Green

Union City's James Logan High School teacher, Michelle Galaria, co-chair of the Science Department, was honored with Animalearn's Humane Educator of the Year Award on October 15 in Anaheim, CA. Galaria, who teaches biology and ecology, also serves as site coordinator of the Service Learning Waste Reduction Program (SLWRP) and advisor to the Sustainability Club. She shares Science Department chairing duties with Paul Bisbiglia.

Animalearn, under the auspices of the National Association of Biology Teachers, recognized Galaria's dedication to improving humane testing methods at her school. She adopted dissection alternatives in her classroom, demonstrating beneficial and effective methods to fellow teachers, administrators, and students. Animalearn recognized that Galaria was the clear choice for this year's award. Nicole Green, assistant director of Animalearn stated, "She has worked tirelessly to make a difference in the educational practices at the school, all the while inspiring her students to also choose the compassionate path in the field of science."

An example of this effort occurred last spring when one of her students, Ben Mabie, presented his views to the New Haven Unified School District Board regarding alternative dissection policies.

The award includes a donation of approximately $1,000 in high quality dissection alternative tools for the classroom. Galaria, with the input of her science colleagues, is entitled to choose the equipment to be donated. A new synthetic frog dissection model provides the realistic experience of dissecting a frog without trauma to students or frog specimens. Galaria spent her time seeing other demonstrations and discussing science matters with other teachers; she was too busy to go to Disneyland.

Galaria said the award has inspired her to accomplish more. "The award is a positive beacon for our school and it reminds me to celebrate the compassion that surrounds me when I am dealing with resistance." She feels this award is a symbol to her students to work toward a more humane world.

Educators and administrators need to be informed about the benefits of non-animal teaching tools and the California education code regarding animals and laboratory safety. A practical aspect also needs to be considered. Galaria says, "Non-animal tools are less costly, reusable, non-toxic and result in equal or superior student performance."

Lynette Hart, professor at UC Davis Veterinary School, is perplexed by animal dissection in high schools while it is being phased out in veterinary and medical schools. UC Davis has developed comparative anatomy labs, which use reusable materials only and developed the virtual heart CD, and is currently modifying The Virtual Human to be accessible on personal computers. The medical school at Stanford uses the New Virtual Dissection Table and Virtual Creatures Web interactives.

Numerous university-created dissection alternatives can be found at A lending library is available through Animalearn and Science Bank from which models and software are available for schools who wish to use alternatives to traditional animal dissections. Schools only pay the return freight.

The newly developed nontraditional techniques are not only humane but also increase students' safety and educational experiences. Focus on these beliefs will keep Galaria involved; she is a teacher who wants to make a difference.

For additional information on Animalearn, visit the website

Photo Caption: (L to R) Laura Ducceschi, Director of Animalearn; Teacher honoree Michelle Galaria, with Nicole Green, Associate Director of Animalearn.

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