Kidney Dissection Lesson

Kidney Dissection Lesson

Welcome to our Kidney Dissection Lesson aimed at GCSE students.

We have a kidney dissection video demonstrating the methodology of the classroom dissection of a kidney.  We have included a lesson plan and risk assessments that can be downloaded or simply reviewed here.

We hope to guide pupils through discovering as much as they can from the kidney!

Aim: To explain how the structure of the kidney is related to their function

GCSE Biology


  • Place kidney in dissection tray and observe the fat covered outside structure.
  • Blood vessels and the ureter are attached to the kidney with the connective tissue that sheaths and binds them.
  • Remove the fat from the outside of the kidney by hand or with some scalpel cuts.
  • The kidney is covered in a thin membrane called the renal capsule.
  • With a scalpel cut the kidney on the side of the ureter. Rotate the kidney around and repeat cuts until you cut all around the organ and can open it out like a book.
  • You can extend the cuts through to the centre so that the kidney can be separated into two halves.
  • The cortex is red-brown and that the medulla is deeper red.
  • The pyramids and the pelvis should be seen, and the pelvis extends into the ureter

Teaching Notes:

  • The urinary system consists of two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder and urethra.
  • The kidney is one of a pair of organs that removes nitrogenous wastes, such as urea from the body and maintains the water content, and thus the pH and ion balance of the blood.
  • The wastes constitute urine, which moves from the kidneys, through the ureters to the bladder, from where it leaves the body through the urethra.
  • By dissecting a mammalian kidney, you will recognise aspects of the gross structure e.g. the cortex and medulla, pyramids and pelvis, and will understand how collecting ducts join to drain urine into the ureter.

Observations to point out:

  • Further detail can be observed by taking a small sample from the cortex and medulla and crushing them under a coverslip. The kidney tubules can be seen using the x10 objective lens
  • Samples for Schools Pigs kidney
  • Dissection tray
  • Scalpel
  • Scissors
  • Mounting needle
  • Ruler or calipers with mm divisions
  • Paper towel
  • Microscope
  • Microscope slide and cover slip

AQA: Topic and

Students should know the waste product urea from cells diffuses into the blood plasma for excretion in the kidney.

Explain how excess water, ions and urea are removed via the kidneys in the urine.

Edexcel: Topic 7.18B – 7.22B

Describe the structure of the urinary system

Explain how the structure of the nephron is related to its function in filtering the blood and forming urine including:

  • a  filtration in the glomerulus and Bowman’s capsule
  • b  selective reabsorption of glucose
  • c  reabsorption of water

Eduqas: Topic 4.3

Describe and be able to label a diagram of the human excretory system to show kidneys, renal arteries, renal veins.

SP4.3 Dissection of mammalian kidney

OCR 21st Century: Topic B5.1 and B5.4

Students should describe how urea is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys into urine.

The kidneys filter water and urea from the blood into kidney tubules

OCR Gateway: Topic B3.3

Students should describe the gross structure of the kidney and the structure of the kidney tubule