Creating clay models of a human torso as an alternative to dissection.
Instead of dissecting animals, students create small clay models of
human internal organs to demonstrate their understanding of the
positioning and interlocking shapes of the organs. Not only is this
approach more environmentally friendly, it also forces them to learn
human anatomy--which is more relevant to them than the anatomy of other
creatures--in a creative and constructive manner. The article includes
photos of students' work, a table for evaluation (grading rubric),
and a list of materials, as well as some helpful hints.
Key Words: Dissection alternative; human anatomy; constructivist learning; hands-on learning; kinesthetic learning; interdisciplinary learning; art and science fusion.
(Study and teaching)
|Publication:||Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685|
|Issue:||Date: March, 2010 Source Volume: 72 Source Issue: 3|
|Product:||Product Code: 8522100 Biology NAICS Code: 54171 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
For instructors seeking an alternative to dissection--whether
because of cost, environmental impact, or personal choice--this activity
is a low-tech option for either a whole class or a few students. Instead
of dissecting animals, my students create 5-inch clay models of human
internal organs. This is a fun, hands-on activity that taps into
students' creativity, and it also requires them to understand the
positioning and interlocking shapes of their own organs. As instructive
as studying diagrams can be, more is learned about the digestive system
when it is constructed from esophagus to rectum and interlaced with the
heart and liver in the process. This way, students learn more about
their own bodies while still learning kinesthetically. They gain a
deeper understanding because they are producing something rather than
merely manipulating it.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
I give students one full class period (75 minutes) and then 30 minutes on the following day to finish their project. I allow them to take their models home between classes, but students rarely do so. Students are asked to include 10 organs: heart, trachea & lungs, esophagus & stomach, liver, pancreas, kidneys, small intestine, large intestine, bladder, and spinal cord, each in a different color. Additionally, I ask female students to include a uterus and ovaries and male students to include testes. They can use the myriad biology and anatomy textbooks available in my classroom as well as a life-size torso model. I also have a few examples of previous students' models for them to observe (Figure 1).
For a class of 30 students, you will need 5 kg of non-toxic, non-hardening modeling clay (450 g each of 11 colors), as well as 30 index cards for the color keys and 30 plastic bags for storage. Clay-working tools can also be helpful but are not necessary.
I grade using the evaluation parameters shown in Figure 2. Five points are given for each of the 11 organs. I base those 5 points on the organ's shape, position, relative size, and texture. Additionally, I give 15 points for the compactness of the model, 15 points for its aesthetics, and 15 points for the color key.
Here are a few final suggestions. If you have fewer than 11 colors of clay, students can either double up on nonadjacent organs (e.g., make both the heart and the pancreas blue) or they can mix the clay to form new colors. One year, everyone chose green for the lungs, so we ran out of green. Now I make sure that students use a variety of colors for the bigger organs (lungs and small intestine). I store leftover clay in sealed bags and use it again the next year.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
GWENDOLYN SHIPLEY is a biology teacher at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, 785 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA 02452; e-mail: email@example.com.
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