Middle School Science Teacher Encourages Students to Eat Dissected Projects

edible dissection

Aprons and goggles are a requirement for any science lab, even edible ones.

“Ewwww, disgusting!”

That’s what seventh-grade science teacher Billie Thon-Lanigan heard last year when students dissected raw, bleached chicken wings to reinforce their study of skeletal and muscular systems.

“It was interesting for students to see how muscles attach to bone and how the joints work,” Thon-Lanigan said. “But it’s kind of gross and messy and then the wings get tossed into the trash.”

Desiring more student enthusiasm and less waste, this middle school science teacher decided to try something new: edible chicken wing dissection. She sent an email to parents, requesting volunteers to prepare the 220 required specimens. Not only did she expect the kids would be more willing to dissect cooked chicken wings, but she also was fairly certain most students would appreciate the idea of eating the project once the dissection was complete.

She was right, of course.

On the day of the lab, students scurried excitedly into the room. After listening to their teacher provide an overview, they quickly donned aprons and goggles and lined up to collect their specimens and choice of sauce. Some sniffed their plates as they made their way back to their lab tables. Others licked their lips.

Even vegetarians were taken into consideration. They were not required to handle the chicken, but asked instead to observe as a partner located the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Their lab snacks were celery sticks and carrots.

Students waited, knives and forks poised over their chicken, as Thon-Lanigan instructed them to gently cut away the skin to observe the muscle and fatty tissues. They recorded observations on worksheets.

Edible Dissection

Don’t mind the hot sauce!

During the experiment, Thon-Lanigan moved from table to table in between short explanations. “Eat a little chicken to get it out of the way because now you are looking for tendons and bones,” she said.

It was the moment the kids had been waiting for. Around the room specimens were stuffed into hungry mouths. In several cases, clean bones came out.

“Can we have more than one?” a student asked, waving his neatly cleaned wing. “I never found the ligaments.”

“That’s because you ate them all,” his table-mate chided and laughter filled the room.

“I can’t find the tendon,” another student commented, her face peering closely at her partially-eaten piece.

Thon-Lanigan responded with a teaching moment, “Tendons attach muscles to bones,” she reminded them.

When I asked students what they thought about the experiment, their responses were positive.

“The human arm and the chicken wing are similar,” said Lyle. “And this is interesting because you get to eat the experiment.”

“I’ve eaten a lot of chicken, but never thought about it in terms of tendons, ligaments, and joints,” observed Ezekial.

In the end, the edible dissection was a success. “It’s a little more challenging to identify the ligaments and tendons when the chicken is cooked,” Thon-Lanigan explained. “But I like the idea of the wings going to better use.”

Surnay explains ligaments

Click the image to hear Hser Nay explain what his dissection revealed.

The students were in complete agreement.

“I find it fascinating,”Hser Nay observed, admitting that he wanted to become a doctor one day. “I’m going to keep this in my head.”



Want to see how the raw dissection is performed? Check out this three-minute video from Texas A&M.

Author Sheila Callaham loves science! In her young adult series, The Wells Worthy Adventure Series, Sheila uses fiction as a platform to delve into quantum mechanics and the mystery of space and time. It goes without saying that 16-year-old Wells Worthy experiences the adventure of a lifetime, while readers explore science, history, culture, geography, and ethics. Watch this five minute video to learn more about how Sheila uses fiction as a teaching tool in this young adult trilogy.

Legal Thriller Highlights Social, Political Debate Over Heroin Addiction

addictionHow does an emergency room physician become a crime fiction author, traveling around the U.S. talking about addiction? For Dr. Steven Kassels, it has been a logical evolution, an ongoing journey as physician, educator, and now author. His new book Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine, is a murder mystery, legal thriller with a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is clearly entertaining. Kassels’ characters include an egotistical Boston attorney, two heroin addicts, and a dead woman. On a more subtle level, however, the book educates and informs readers about the opiate epidemic along the US east coast, while highlighting the heated socio-political debate around what to do about it.

“I wrote this book to appeal to readers who want to be entertained, either on the beach or sitting in front of the fire,” Kassels said in an interview last month. Did Jimmy really kill Annette and throw her body down the ravine?  “But I also wanted the reader to get a realistic view of the struggles and to put a face on addiction based on medical and legal truths. If people learn from it, while being entertained, that’s great.”

I came to know Dr. Kassels through social media after my hashtag #fictionwithamessage caught his attention on Twitter. It seems we both realize the power of fiction as a means to call attention to social issues.

“Fiction can create significant social change, and it’s a way to reach an audience that would not necessarily want to read about a specific topic,” Kassels explained. “If I speak at an event, I end up preaching to the choir. So how do I reach a segment of the population who may not choose to read about addiction, or not be aware of the importance of the societal consequences related to the medical treatment challenges; or the political, economic, and philosophical intertwined factors? I decided the best way was through the back door, through a murder mystery, legal thriller.”

I did the same thing in my first book, murder mystery Truth Runs Deep, which explored the pain of exclusion based on religion, sexual orientation, and race. Just like Kassels’ book, my book can just as easily be an entertaining beach read. Still, our hope, as authors, is that some of our messages will penetrate, leaving the reader more mindful about the topic at hand. Perhaps even willing to help create change.

For Addiction on Trial, learning more would mean coming to terms with the depth and breadth of drug addiction. According to Kassels, if you think you don’t know an addict, you are wrong. You just don’t know which of your family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors are addicts. “I’ve treated college professors, elementary school teachers, nurses, IRS auditors, carpenters, and plumbers. Need I go on?” Kassels asked rhetorically. “It’s truly an epidemic along the entire east coast, and it’s penetrating into the heartland of America.”


It’s complicated, Kassels explained. “Politicians are split. Some think we should incarcerate addicts, while those with more understanding of the science and economic ramifications know the importance of treating addiction.”

Kassels named Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin as a politician in the know after Shumlin dedicated the majority of his State of the State address in January 2014 to the topic. In his speech, Shumlin emphasized the urgency of this crisis. Just minutes into his delivery, he laid down his truth.

In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threaten us. It threatens the safety that has always blessed our state. It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many, but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction treatment providers, and too many Vermont families. It requires all of us to take action before the quality of life that we cherish so much is compromised.

And then Shumlin cites facts.

  • In Vermont, since 2000, opiate treatment increased more than 770%
  • In 2013, there were twice as many federal indictments against heroin dealers than in the prior two years, and over five times as many as had been obtained in 2010.
  • Last year, the number of deaths in Vermont from heroin overdose nearly doubled compared to the prior year.

The facts are sobering to those in the know. Kassels knows. He’s practiced medicine for more than 35 years. Having been Board Certified in both Emergency Medicine and Addiction Medicine, he sees the impact of addiction on the lives of others every day of his practicing life. It’s from these sobering experiences that he draws inspiration for his fictional scenes. Within the story line, there is the medical aspect highlighting the disease of addiction and how it impacts an individual physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s also the sociological aspect that shows how the disease of addiction impacts family, friends, neighborhoods, the community….

“Whether you want to believe addiction is a disease or not,” Kassels emphasized, “we don’t incarcerate cigarette smokers; we treat the diseases they develop as a result of nicotine addiction. We don’t incarcerate alcoholics; we treat the diseases they develop as a result of their addiction. We don’t discriminate. Yet we send our young men and women to fight a war, and when they come back with a heroin addiction, we stigmatize them. That’s considered a bad addiction.”

Yes, it’s complicated.

Kassels’ book is meant to entertain. As a symptom of consuming it, however, a reader may become more informed. A full-blown case of reader mindfulness could result in efforts to create political and social change.

“I wrote about heroin addiction in my book to de-stigmatize it,” Kassels said, “because there’s no significant difference between alcohol addiction and heroin addiction. Both drugs affect a similar area in the brain that stimulates the reward center. We feel pleasure from many things — good food, sex, exercise. Simply stated, if you stimulate the reward center by drugs, you can desensitize it, so you may not feel the rewards from the other things.”

A full-time medical director, he estimates that he spent 2,500 hours, over five-plus years, to complete the novel. Working with both developmental and copy editors, he reworked the manuscript through 14 edits over a two-year period. He’s been an expert voice on the witness stand in criminal trials. He has actively worked with paramedics in the field, teaching them how to best treat the critically ill and opiate patients. He is a passionate and serious advocate.

Still there are those who, like Governor Paul LaPage of Maine, think addicts should be incarcerated. Unlike his enlightened Vermont neighbor, Governor LaPage increased funding for law enforcement and judicial support to deal with addiction while at the same time cutting funding for treatment. Maybe Governor LaPage could learn a thing or two from Governor Shumlin, who clearly has a handle on what incarcerating addicts means.

Nearly 80% of our incarcerated population are either addicted or in prison because of their addiction. And listen to this math: a week in prison in Vermont costs about $1,120, but $123 will buy a week of treatment for a heroin addict at a state-funded center. Today, our state government spends more to imprison Vermonters than we do to support our colleges and universities, and our prison spending has doubled in the last nine years. You do not have to be a math major to realize that we can’t afford our current path. We have to figure out how to spend taxpayer money more wisely, while we treat the disease more effectively.

It is said that great works of literary fiction offer deliberate commentary on larger social and political issues. Kassels’ book may be categorized as a murder mystery, legal thriller, but zooming out one can see a bigger, more critical message being delivered. The question is, what will the reader choose to do with it?

#FictionWithaMessageDr. Steven Kassels

Grab a copy of Dr. Kassels’ book Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine. Want him to Skype into your group meeting or book club? Connect with him on his website.

Choosing Happiness is Always Up to You

HappinessIf you do a search for happiness on my site, you will quickly see that it’s one of my favorite topics to write about. It should come as no surprise then that I’m jumping up and down with excitement to share today’s release of Linda Joy’s newest book: “Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness. My friend Linda is a best selling author and publisher, so she knows how to write good stuff. Her book “Choosing Happiness” features the soul-inspiring stories of 27 amazing women who share their intimate stories of transformation.

If there is one message I share with anyone who will listen, it’s this:

You choose how you feel.

Feeling angry? What can you do to shift to a better feeling thought? Take a walk, play ball with the neighbor kids, sing and dance to your favorite music?

Feeling sad? What would it take for you to find a happy thought instead? What makes you smile, what do you most appreciate, what are you most proud of?

Not only do I share this message with all of my coaching clients, I also share it with friends, family, and neighbors. We live in a society addicted to negative emotion and the accompanying adrenaline rush from anger and agitation. It’s because of this “cultural symptom” to negative emotion that I hear daily the “oh woe is me” story. It’s too common for people to make themselves victims of circumstance by claiming helplessness. Even more common is refusing to accept any responsibility for one’s feelings, because the blame is always being placed on someone else.

This mindset needs to change. It’s unhealthy to believe that revealing in a negative space is better than choosing to bask in a positive one.

While I don’t follow around my clients, friends, and neighbors to ensure they are putting my words into practice, I do live with my husband and three of seven children. That gives me plenty of opportunities to see “choosing happiness” in practice.

I’m telling you; choosing happiness works!

Does this mean my hubby and kids are happy-go-lucky all the time? Of course not. But it does mean that when they realize they are being sucked down the emotional rabbit hole, they acknowledge their power of choice to do something about it.

Sometimes they falter, like this past weekend when my youngest son had a meltdown over his math homework. All I did was remind him that how he felt was his choice. And then I asked, “How do you want feel?” A few minutes later, I began to see and feel a shift in his energy. He signed audibly (release is great!), his body visibly relaxed, and his voice softened.

Yet, some people do remain unhappy, and here’s one reason why.

Deepak Chopra, one of the most-renowned names in the field of mind-body medicine and personal transformation, explains that people who remain unhappy are waiting for someone else to make them happy. It is, he says, one of the biggest mistakes people make.

Happiness is not something someone else gives you. Unless you require the care of a medical professional, happiness will always be a feeling you must choose for yourself. If that feels difficult for you right now, I’ve got three simple exercises for you. Whether you pick one or all of these practices, you will notice a positive difference in how you feel!

1) Choose your company wisely

Ever noticed how smiles seem to spread easily? Negative emotions are like that, too. That means you should carefully choose who you spend time with. It also means that when you find yourself amongst negative people, you’ll need to find a way out. Spending time with naysayers is an energy drainer — a mental and emotional downer. Fire chronically negative family and friends and spend your time with those who inspire you, those who know how to find the rainbow in a rainstorm, those whose desire to choose happiness is as strong and passionate as yours.

2) Watch your words

Be mindful of your language and stop yourself from saying anything negative about yourself or anyone else. Words are the result of your thoughts, so when you feel something negative about to emerge from your mouth stop, check your thoughts, and shift to something positive. Not sure how to do that? Consider this little trick: “Wouldn’t it be nice if….”  When you think about what would be nice to see, have, hear, or experience then your thinking shifts to a higher vibration, and so does your feeling of happiness. Yes, it’s really this simple.

3) Practice gratitude

When you see something that makes your heart feel lighter, say a silent “Thank you” to the universe. Maybe it’s a beautiful bird sitting on your windowsill. Perhaps you hear a child singing happily while playing in the park. Maybe it was a compliment you received, or that you found the perfect parking spot when you were rushing out to do some shopping during your lunch hour. No matter what makes your heart feel joy, make a practice of acknowledging it. The more gratitude you offer, the more you will find for which you can be grateful! It only takes a couple of seconds to acknowledge the good in your life. When you tune into all the good around you, then you begin to see how wonderful life is. Make the words, “attitude of gratitude” your mantra, and see how much better you feel.

Do you have a favorite happiness technique? I’d love for you to share it in the comments below!

HappinessWant more great words of wisdom about choosing happiness? Be sure to check out Linda’s new book, Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness. Grab it today to get access to over 40 transformational gifts! (Limited time only)