Pickle Dissection

This is a classic activity for students to do before they dissect actual specimens such as the earthworm, perch, squid, and frog. Most students have never used a scalpel before and when cutting something, cut all the way through the item when using a knife. When using a scalpel, they have to learn to NOT cut through something and to make precise incisions at the proper depth. Using a pickle as a specimen is a quick, easy, and inexpensive option. The pickle has already been preserved, much like the specimens they will be using in class, but smells much better 😉 Students will also practice using the proper terminology for dissections (such as anterior, posterior, dorsal, ventral, etc.), sketching their specimens during the dissection, and taking measurements.


  • Jar of pickles, any store brand that is about finger length
  • scalpel
  • dissecting tray
  • pins
  • tweezers
  • dissecting probe

Here are three versions of this activity to choose from:

  1. Simpler (pdf)
  2. More detailed (pdf)
  3. Pickle Autopsy (link)

Oh, and by the way, never place dissecting trays in the dishwasher. I grew up without a dishwasher and never used one before. We had one in the science office and I thought, this is great, I can clean the dissecting trays and sterilize them in the brand new dishwasher the science department just installed a month ago. Loaded the dishwasher and went home. Came in the next day and opened it up to find that all of the black tar/wax coated EVERY single square inch of the inside of the dishwasher, and it was not coming off…ever. The other science teachers and I tried everything we could think of to remove it. I had to tell my department chair and principal what happened. Yeah, that was fun. We had to get another new dishwasher installed. Let’s just say I never lived it down, it was a monumental rookie mistake.


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