Making a Mouse Mummy
Science teacher Mary Buster wrote to say that her 6th grade science classes mummified mice each year. She buys dead "feeder mice" from pet supply stores.
She continues: "We do a complete thematic unit on Egypt, so the students are doing Egyptian projects in all of their classes. We look at anatomy pictures of humans and rats while we dissect the mice so it becomes an anatomy lesson, too.
"The students remove organs, wash the body and dry it. We then place the mice in shoe boxes of salt and baking soda for forty days. I put the shoe boxes in a heavy plastic garbage bag and then put it in a cupboard to cut down on any smells. When the time is up, the students wrap their "pharaohs" with strips from an old pillow case (anything soft). We make canopic jars and actually put organs in them with some fresh baking soda and salt (this is after they are dried). The students wear medical gloves and wash their hands well when the project is finished. We do one mouse to about every four students."
One year, her students used rats rather than mice. She notes: "I found the rats to be much more acceptable than the mice for two reasons. First, the organs are so much more visible and easier to identify. Second, mice intestines can have a bad odor (although I don't always notice) and the rats had virtually no odor at all. Some of my students wanted to see if they could take out the brain this year. We found that we could only reach the brain if we entered the skull from the back of the neck. They found it difficult to remove the brain in one piece, and it bothered some of the students to see it 'mushed.' Actually, I'm not sure if it was the sight of the brain or the cracking sound that occurred as they broke through the skull. Anyway, I did have a few students sitting at the side of the room over this part of the activity, something I never had to deal with before, but every group of students is different! Many of them handled the whole situation very well. You can almost visualize the doctors and nurses of the future!"
Thank you, Mary!