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Back to Programs

Premium Lab: Cow Eye Dissections (5th-8th)

Dissect a real cow eye to investigate the inner workings of eyes! Students will be able to make connections to eye structure through this hands-on exploration. Register today!

​Cost: $5 per student

Premium labs are booked for a minimum of 15 students with a minimum price of $75.

Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09

  • Design and conduct scientific investigations. (S.IP.05.12; S.IP.06.12; S.IP.07.12)
  • Describe the physical characteristics (traits) of organisms that help them survive in their environment. (L.EV.05.12)
  • Relate degree of similarity in anatomical features to the classification of contemporary organisms. (L.EV.05.21)
  • Recognize that all organisms are composed of cells (single cell organisms, multicellular organisms). (L.0L.07.21)
  • Explain how cells make up different body tissues, organs and organ systems. (L.0L.07.22)

Next Generation Science Standards

Students participating in this program will explore science content as stated in the Disciplinary Core Ideas. They will engage in science and engineering practices as they plan and conduct investigations to answer questions regarding the structure and function of the eye.

PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation

  • Objects can be seen if light is available to illuminate them or if they give off their own light.
  • An object can be seen when light reflected from its surface enters the eyes.

LS1.A: Structure and Function

  • Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.

LS1.D: Information Processing

  • Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.
  • Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories.

Cow Eye Disection Pre-Visit Information

During Your Visit to the ScienceWorks Lab students will be expected to:

  • Sit in tables of 6 students and (at least) 1 adult
  • Students should be prepared to give their attention to the Lab instructors when requested to “Give Me Five”
  • Work cooperatively with one another at the table
  • Follow the hands-on procedures just as the Lab teacher or assistant explains them
  • Handle materials and equipment carefully

It is important that teachers and chaperones:

  • Help to focus the students’ attention
  • Assist students with the hands-on activities and experiments when necessary
  • Turn off cell phones and pagers during the class

Please Note

  • Students will be expected to work in pairs to dissect a real cow eyeball and briefly use a razor
  • Students will be expected to carefully follow the safety procedures for dissections


Aqueous Humor: A clear fluid that helps the cornea keep its rounded shape.

Blind Spot: The place where all nerves from the retina join to form the optic nerve. Each eye has a blind spot where there are no light-sensitive cells.

Cornea: A tough, clear covering over the iris and the pupil that helps protect the eye. Light bends as it passes through the cornea; the cornea begins bending light to make an image.

Iris: A muscle that controls how much light enters the eye. It is suspended between the cornea and lens. A cow’s iris is always brown, while human irises may be brown, blue, green or gray.

Optic Nerve: The bundle of nerve fibers that carry information from the retina to the brain.

Pupil: The dark circle in the center of your iris. It is a hole that gets bigger or smaller, as the iris expands or contracts, to let light into the eye.

Retina: The layer of light sensitive cells at the back of the eye. The retina detects images focused by the cornea and the lens. The retina is connected to the brain by the optic nerve.

Tapetum: The colorful, shiny material located behind the retina which is found in animals with good night vision. The tapetum reflects light back through the retina to enhance the animal's night vision.

Vitreous Humor: The thick, clear jelly that helps give the eyeball its shape.

Cones: One kind of light-sensitive cells in the retina. Cones give you color vision in bright light.

Rods: One kind of light-sensitive cells in the retina; they work in dim light.

Cow Eye Dissection Post-Visit Activity: Peripheral Vision

Post-visit activities will help reiterate new concepts and tie the ScienceWorks Lab experience to your classroom curriculum. Below you will find a classroom activity and a list of suggested resources for further information. We hope that you enjoyed your field trip. Visit us again!

Objective: To determine the limits of an individual’s peripheral vision


  • None (participant’s body only)


  1. Stare straight ahead with your arms stretched out in front of you.
  2. As you continue to stare ahead, slowly move your arms apart and to the sides, keeping them straight.
  3. Stop moving your arms when you can no longer see your hands without moving your eyes or head. Notice where your hands are, you have reached the limit of your peripheral vision.


Your field of vision is the distance that you can see around your body without moving your head. Your field of vision to your sides is known as peripheral vision. Since your eyes are located on front of your head, your field of vision ends at the sides of our bodies. In animals like frogs, whose eyes are located on the top and sides of their heads, the field of vision is much greater. Frogs can even see what’s behind them without turning their heads!


  1. Try the experiment again. When your arms reach the limit of your peripheral vision, try wiggling your fingers. Without moving your eyes or head can you see them now?
  2. Test your peripheral color vision:
  • Cut out 2x2 inch squares of red, blue, black, white, and green paper. You will need two squares of each color.
  • Hold a square of the same color in each hand.
  • Stare straight ahead with your arms stretched out in front of you.
  • As you continue to stare ahead, slowly move your arms apart and to the sides, keeping them straight.
  • Stop moving your arms when you can no longer see your hands without moving your eyes or head. Notice where your hands are.
  • Repeat the experiment with the other colors. What do you notice?
  • Repeat the experiment with different shaped colors. What do you notice?


Only the cones on your retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of your eye, are sensitive to color. These cells are clustered mainly in the central part of the retina. When you look at something with your peripheral vision, its image focuses on the periphery of your retina, where there are few cones. It becomes difficult to distinguish color when you see something out of the corner of your eye. Rods are more evenly spread across the retina, but are also sparser toward the outer regions of the retina. This causes your eyes to have a limited ability to resolve shapes of objects at the periphery of your vision.

Suggested Resources

A Journey Through the Human Eye: How We See
Bill Nye the Science Guy on the Eyeball

Neuroscience for Kids
Gallery of Visual Illusions
How Vision Works


Fekrat, Sharon, and Jennifer S. Weizer. All About Your Eyes. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. Print.
Seckel, Al. The Great Book of Optical Illusions. Firefly Books Ltd, 2002. Print.

Premium Lab: Cow Eye Dissections (5th-8th)



50 minutes

3-5th, 6-8th

20, 30, 60, 100

Natural Sciences

Still not sure we have the experience you want?

Visit unityinlearning.org to open a gateway to hands-on discovery, exploration of the natural world, and experiences that take flight.

Through the Unity in Learning partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On MuseumLeslie Science and Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum we provide over 100 different  programs at our facilities, on site at your location, or through interactive video conferencing.