SUNSET -- There is something fishy about Libby Jacobsen's teaching methods.
The smell of fish hung heavy in the air Tuesday afternoon as sixth-graders at Sunset Elementary School used their newly gained knowledge of Egyptian burial customs to mummify the bodies of the recently deceased.
Groups of three and four students were each assigned a trout to memorialize, then study, dissect and mummify.
"I think it's cool how we're learning about the body of the fish, and how we're going to mummify him. It's like we went back in time," said Ashlynn Vest, 12.
Jacobsen said she has had her students do this project for the past four years. This is her first year teaching at Sunset.
To create a connection between the scientific dissection of the fish and the Egyptian ritual of mummification, students were required to give the fish a name, draw a picture of it and thank it for giving its life to science.
Cheyenne Beagley, 11, explained that Egyptians believed that their Ba and Ka (two portions of a person's soul) would only be reunited if their name was written down, a drawing was made of them and their body was preserved.
She said that is why many pharaohs had their sarcophagus made in their own likeness.
"If what the Egyptians feel is really real, he'll have a good afterlife," Cheyenne said of Crystal, the fish her group was mummifying.
The students were required to remove and identify several organs from the fish, similar to what Egyptians removed for mummification purposes: the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines and gill filament.
The organs were placed in jars and covered in baking soda to dry.
Jacobsen said she plans to bury the organs in her backyard and dig them up in a few months to show the students how the mummification process works.
"They dry up ... and the heart and liver harden fast," Ashlynn said.
After the organs were removed, students worked with the body of the fish.
Sixth-grader Cynthia Layton said the body would be dried off, cleaned with vinegar, wrapped in gauze and put in a resealable bag full of baking soda to dry.
The bags were carefully labeled with each fish's name, and the process was complete.
"This is a good opportunity for the kids to see things up close as they learn about mummies. Hands-on learning is always better than reading it out of a book," said Principal Mike Venable.
"I do a lot of weird things," Jacobsen said, "but this is the stuff they will remember."