Some sort of sea animal stench smacks me in the face when I walk through the door at Buford Elementary. I know what I’m getting into when I decide to film it.
The smell gets stronger the closer I get to the classroom – the classroom with dead, two-foot-long dogfish sharks on the table.
I don’t think I can make it through the lesson these fourth graders are about to have – dissecting sharks.
Some students stand there wide-eyed. Some look like they’re about to be sick to their stomachs. Some just hold their noses.
I want to hold my nose, too.
I stand there unsure how to feel about dead sharks lying on newspapers with my byline.
The teacher explains how to use the two tools – scissors and a scalpel – sitting in aluminum pie pans on the center of each table.
That’s when the kids are ready to dig in.
And boy, some of them start hacking away as they make the I-shaped cut on the stomachs of their sharks.
Some smells go away after a few minutes of getting used to. This smell isn’t one of them. A mix of formalin and dead fish to be exact.
The teacher finally opens one of the classroom doors that leads outside. So, obviously, that’s where I duck out to fill my lungs.
I learn the liver is the largest organ in the shark, which they pull out in one piece with the gallbladder attached. I also learn what it looks like when a kid dangles shark liver in front of my camera.
Then, it’s time for “free cuts.”
If they weren’t hacking the sharks up before, they definitely are now.
The eyeballs and brains come out during free cuts.
And when one student pops a shark’s eyeball out, sending it soaring through the air and rolling between my feet, I know it’s time to go.
Follow Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong