GREEN RIVER — Green River High School students have graduated from dissecting cats to human cadavers — digitally of course.
Last year Sweetwater County School District No. 2 purchased an Anatomage Table, a digital device designed to teach anatomy, for $110,000. Since then it has created a new learning dynamic in the anatomy classes at Green River High School.
“What it does is show digital scans — four human plus animals — at an extremely high resolution. So you can essentially do human dissection,” GRHS anatomy teacher Dan Parson explained.
The program is loaded with four adult human cadavers scanned from real, once-living people. It allows students to turn, rotate, cut, isolate and highlight any number of systems or parts of the body. The program can recognize, label and quiz users on every part of the body.
Parson and his student teacher, Kimberly Harper, were able to add new lessons to the anatomy course because of the table and will add more as the ideas come organically throughout the year.
They are particularly interested in using the multiple-choice quiz feature. Parson wants the students to be able to use and touch the table rather than just looking at it. He said he wants them to have as much fun with it as he does, to foster student-led learning experiences.
“Nothing in the body exists independently of each other. (The Anatomage) really helps reinforce that,” Parson said, noting the features that allow the viewer to see how systems work in a living body.
The pathology is also present in the digital cadavers. Each condition the individuals died from — from cancer to gunshots — is present for the user to study. Two of the cadavers have an observable sternal foramen, a rare genetic abnormality resulting in a hole in the sternum.
Anatomage is a company based out of Silicon Valley, California. The company’s website features a description of the table:
“The Anatomage Table is the only fully segmented real human 3D anatomy system. Users can visualize anatomy exactly as they would on a fresh cadaver. Individual structures are reconstructed in accurate 3D, resulting in an unprecedented level of real accurate anatomy, dissectible in 3D. Anatomy is presented as a fully interactive, life-sized touchscreen experience, in operatory bed form. The table allows for exploration and learning of human anatomy beyond what any cadaver could offer.”
The table is essentially a computer with two large touchscreens making up the face of the table. The computer is loaded with a program that allows for life-sized simulated human dissection that can be updated in the future. It can lay flat facing upward like a real table, or it can be tilted sideways horizontally or vertically to face an audience.
Company representatives made the trip to Green River to train the teachers and staff in September.
Currently the table sits in an unassigned classroom to allow for sharing. In addition to teaching anatomy, sports medicine teacher Josh Lewis uses it for his classes. It also has applications in the health science classes.
GRHS has invited other learning organizations in the community to use the table, but so far none have taken up the district on its offer.
For now, Parson expects to keep using both the cats and the anatomy table to teach dissection to anatomy students. In the future, the school board plans to save money by phasing out animal dissections, according to school board member John Malone.
GRHS was one of only two schools in the country to have an anatomy table when they purchased it. Since then, schools in California have added them to their curriculum.