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An Inaugural Event: PCRM Honors 'Cut Above' Dissection Alternatives Award Winners

In January, PCRM celebrated change: the growing number of schools embracing nonanimal alternatives to dissection. Thanks to revised policies, modern nonanimal learning methods, and innovative students and teachers, the national trend is toward humane alternatives to dissection. To honor this change, PCRM announced the winners of the inaugural 2009 Cut Above Awards for Dissection Alternatives.

Kara HairstonThis year's Cut Above Awards winners—teachers and students who have taken great leaps to adopt humane alternatives to dissection—are Kara Hairston, a sixth-grader at Belzer Middle School in Indianapolis, who took a strong stand against dissection in her classroom, and biology teacher Ann Smart, science department chair at Cabrini High School in New Orleans, who moved to nonanimal alternatives after realizing dissection was promoting a disrespect for life among her students. Kara Hairston and Ann Smart each received $2,000, including $1,000 for the winner and $1,000 for her school.

Ann Smart"Studies show that nonanimal methods teach concepts in biology and anatomy just as well or better than animal dissection," says Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., a PCRM biologist and author of The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives, and Recommendations. "Fortunately, digital dissection, three-dimensional models, and a variety of other dissection alternatives are now showing up in science classrooms across the country."

Last year, the National Science Teachers Association, the largest science education association in the world, revised its position to support student dissection choice and to acknowledge the advances in nonanimal learning methods. And in August, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill released the first virtual dissection software that uses real images to enable students to "dissect" frogs and earthworms from their computers.

PCRM also recognized three additional students and three additional teachers for their contributions to this progress in dissection alternatives. This year’s outstanding Cut Above runners-up are Tegwyth Alderson-Taber, an eighth-grader in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Allison Carlos, an 11th-grader in Watertown, N.Y.; Emily Indig, a ninth-grader in Manalapan, N.J.; Rich Taedter, a high school principal and teacher in Rawlins, Wyo.; Emily Adams, a science department chair and teacher in Marietta, Ga.; and Sharon Ehrlich, a teacher in Philadelphia.

To find out more about PCRM’s work to promote dissection alternatives and for more information about the 2009 Cut Above Awards winners and runners-up, visit

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.

PCRM Online, February 2009

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