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Pigs bare their hearts for children in Sycamore

Imtihaan Hardy (left) , 4, of Sycamore dissects a pig heart with his mother, Qiana Hardy.
Imtihaan Hardy (left) , 4, of Sycamore dissects a pig heart with his mother, Qiana Hardy.

SYCAMORE – With the pungent smell of formaldehyde in the air, about 10 children celebrated Valentine’s Day weekend Saturday by dissecting pig hearts.

“It seemed like a natural fit for Valentine’s Day,” said Molly Trickey, executive director for the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, where the event was held.

“It’s very romantic, don’t you think?” Trickey joked.

Bio Corporation, a Minnesota company that supplies preserved specimens, provided the three-pound pig hearts. The company raises the pigs for meat and donates the organs to science, Trickey said.

As the children were dissecting the heart, Trickey taught them about its functions.

A pig’s heart is similar to a human heart. Both have a vena cava that brings blood into the heart, two ventricles that pump the blood, and an aorta that carries the blood to the rest of the body, Trickey said.

While most of the children thought the dissection was fun, Thalia Schusteff, 15, of Libertyville, couldn’t bear the smell of the chemicals used to preserve the heart. She had to quit as soon as she was told to pull the slimy filament off the heart.

“I had to dissect a frog and a worm in seventh grade, and that was enough for me,” Thalia said. “I just didn’t want to touch [the pig heart].”

Her younger sister, 10-year-old Corinn, thought it was cool to see a pig heart for the first time.

“I’m learning about the human body and the heart in school, so it’s actually pretty interesting seeing [a pig’s heart],” Corinn said.

The sisters were at the event with their mother and stepsister, 11-year-old Shelbi Paul, because their grandmother, who lives in Sycamore, signed them up.

Shelbi said it was her first time dissecting anything.

“The arteries are cool,” she said.

Shelbi pointed at one artery with her scalpel and said, “It’s heart-shaped.”

The children used scalpels, dissection scissors, dental picks and a magnifying glass to handle the pig hearts. Adults supervised to ensure they used the tools correctly.

When Corinn was picking at the pig heart with her dental pick, she joked, “This is so delicious.”

The museum likes to have a dissection class every couple of months, Trickey said. They have dissected snakes, sharks, owl pellets and squids in the past.

Educational programs help the museum stay running because it doesn’t receive tax dollars, Trickey said. The museum receives all of its money through field trips, admission money, grants and donations.

Coming up

The Midwest Museum of Natural History will host the “Live Wolf” program March 16. Big Run Wolf Ranch will bring a live coyote, wolf, skunk, porcupine and groundhog. It is for ages 8 and up. The museum is taking reservations for the event. Admission is $10 for children and adults. To register, call 815-895-9777.

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