Sagan loves animals. When she was younger, she told me she wanted to be an animal doctor that rode a horse around to see her patients.
Sagan spent the better part of the day, several days ago trying to nurse back to health a baby bird with a broken wing and no beak that Scout brought us. Scout is our very large Bengal Cat.
I pointed out the fatal wounds. She insisted, I let her. Yes, it died. She gave it back to Scout, seemingly no worse for wear. I figured it was best that she learned these things first hand.
She's been asking for a rat for a pet for a long time.
Enter Scout with young, dead rat.
I guess I should mention that we recently took a trip to see the Body Worlds 3 Exhibit that is in town. Real plasticine cadavers posed and displayed in an art-meets-science sort of way. Amazing exhibit. Highly recommended.
Anyway, back to our rat.
Sagan: "MOM! Can I dissect it?"
Me: "uh...well..." My immediate reaction not from my own childhood or as a scientist, but as a mildly disgusted germophobe mom, worried about what the neighbors would think. I recognize this pretty quickly, and shift back into unschooler mode.
"Ok. Let me see if I can find a scalpel and for goodness sake, put on some gloves."
I printed off dissection pictures of rats and gave them to her to help with her little "project". Seems she didn't need them. She went through the entire rat, part by part, naming them. She'd bring me the kidneys, "they really DO look like kidney beans!" She brought me the heart. She pointed out the large and small intestines, She pointed out the reproductive organs. She emptied the little rat's abdomen and then proceeded to cut out the tongue and bring it to me. I'm assuming because it protruded from it's little dead mouth.
Then she yelled, "MOM! Look at the BRAIN!!!"
She had pulled the fur back from the skull and was showing me the very clear brain. The skull was CLEAR?!?! I thought she had opened the skull, but no, she tapped it. Click click click. It was a skull alright, but you could see straight into the brain. Amazing. Who knew?
Can you love and nurture and care for animals (and people) all the while taking the opportunity to learn and educate yourself with the cold hard science of life? Apparently you can. Dualism. It's not just black and white.
Again, I highly recommend the Body Worlds exhibits.