Detroit Zoological Society Helps Students Explore Alternative Dissection

Millions of frogs are dissected every year in science classrooms across the country and unfortunately, many of these animals are taken from the wild. With more than half of all amphibian species at risk of extinction, it is critical to leave amphibians in their native habitats.

This summer, the Detroit Zoological Society’s Berman Academy for Humane Education purchased state-of-the-art virtual-reality frog dissection software. Combined with 3-D models, students can participate in an engaging, hands-on humane dissection alternative. In its current form, this alternative dissection approach is instilling a better appreciation for amphibians in classrooms, camps and other education programs.

During the DZS’s Summer Safari Camp at the Detroit Zoo this summer, students entering eighth grade focused on veterinary medicine as a potential career. Through this lens, campers used iPads to explore, rotate and connect how a frog’s physiology works beneath the surface. The augmented reality part of the app allows students to zoom in and manipulate the view of the virtual frog on their tables. Hands-on models of the same species of frog allows them to physically take apart and reassemble parts of the frogs’ anatomy. This experience, combined with a guided tour of the National Amphibian Conservation Center, gave campers the opportunity to see frogs in a different light.

Middle school teachers can schedule their class to visit the Zoo to participate in a Learning Lab focused on virtual dissection. In this program, students use the virtual reality software on a classroom set of iPads to learn about frogs and dissect them, without the cost and environmental impact of taking amphibians from the wild. The software also allows students to go through the process multiple times, to better understand frog anatomy while ensuring wild populations of these critically important species are not compromised.

For more information or to schedule a classroom for the Virtual Dissection Learning Lab, visit or email us at

– Carla Van Kampen is a curator of education for the Detroit Zoological Society.

Education: Summer Camp to Remember

Were there any summer camp experiences that changed your life? For one 8-year-old attendee of the Detroit Zoo’s Summer Safari Camp, the world is a lot bigger, his voice more strong.

The Detroit Zoological Society offers many education programs for children of all ages, and Asher, 8, had a particular interest in what is known as the Eco Camp. His mom, Amy, said that while Asher has always been empathetic towards animals, having the opportunity to learn more about the Zoo and the animals residing there was exciting to him.

David Gakure, Detroit Zoological Society education specialist

David Gakure, Detroit Zoological Society education specialist

One aspect of camp in particular stuck out the most for Asher: storytelling time. Education Specialist David Gakure, who was born and raised in the Republic of Kenya, encourages children to find their voice. He aims to create a place where children feel comfortable to speak up and share their stories. David uses a variety of methods to help children feel comfortable and bring out their voice. He encourages children to share stories about animals and nature by prompting them with questions. Every time the opportunity arose to tell a story, Asher always raised his hand. At the end of camp, David encouraged the children to go out and write down their stories. Asher took the idea and ran with it, writing a 12-page short story, titled “The Fox in the Stormy Night”, as well as a book of 14 animal poems, called “The Marching Lion”. He mailed copies of his work to the Detroit Zoo, much to the delight of staff. Asher’s mom, Amy, said he has written 10 more short stories since.

Amy was thrilled with Asher’s experience at the Zoo.

“Asher has always had a natural talent for writing, but his time at the Zoo really helped to bring the talent forward,” she said. “He had an unstructured space to share his stories; it encouraged him to share them in a way where he always felt comfortable. He wasn’t shut down.”

Finding your voice and sharing it with others is not always easy, especially for children. Asher didn’t realize how big his voice truly was until his experience at Summer Safari Camp.

Click here to learn more about the Zoo’s education programs.