Samohi Marine Biology Students Dissect and Consume Classwork

16th Annual Squid Dissection and BBQ Held in Benjamin Kay’s Biology Class

By Diana Bouchaaya

Students in Benjamin Kay’s Marine Biology class at Santa Monica High School (Samohi) recently participated in the 16th Annual Squid Dissection and BBQ, in the rooftop classroom of the Discovery Building.

“The kinesthetic and visual portions of experiential learning opportunities are known to enhance student understanding and retention of school materials. Learning by doing is powerful in that sense,” Kay said. “Students probably won’t even remember the best lecture I gave this year, but they’ll probably remember the slimy coat, the sticky suckers, the sharp chitinous beak, and the taste and smell of surum squid. ”

Kay, who is an instructor in life and environmental sciences, as well as a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Sustainability Steering Committee, has been hosting the calamari barbecue for his students since he started teaching at Samohi. He prefers to use fresh squid he buys from Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese grocery store, to make meals more sustainable. Since students consume their samples after performing the dissection with sterile instruments and clean hands, there is little waste. Additionally, there is no exposure to fixatives and chemicals associated with preserved specimens.

“Dissections are a traditional way in marine science to understand the internal and external physiology of specimens,” Kay said. “I didn’t like the chemicals and smells associated with the preserved specimens my teachers sometimes used, so I’ve chosen to buy fresh squid from the market for the past 16 years that I’ve taught Samohi. After a student found a spare frying pan in the cafeteria my freshman year, the rest was history! »

With guidance from Kay, the students dissected their squids, discovered different body parts and their functions, played with squid ink and learned to tell a male from a female. The students then cut off the edible parts for Kay to prepare and fry for them to eat.

“While I thought the whole barbecue was amazing, my favorite part would definitely be how convenient it was,” said Sophie Salem, marine biology student and senior at Samohi. “Mr. Kay allowed us to touch all the parts of the squid while learning what each part does, which was really intriguing. I loved being able to eat the squid at the end. We were able to take the squid apart in order to cooking, which was so much fun!

Kay explained that in previous years, barbecues were held in vacant lab stations in classrooms, with only the windows open. For those who do not like the smell of seafood, especially not early in the morning, organizing the barbecue in the building has become a problem.

“The Discovery rooftop is a great setting to do our thing while enjoying the ocean view,” Kay said. “My students and I are truly grateful to have access to the Discovery Building, which is an ideal setting for learning and teaching.”

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