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My Hands-on Anatomy Education Creation (off-topic shameless self-promotion)
Please pardon my cross-posting.
If you are interested in how I taught human anatomy to preschoolers this
past semester (my first semester as a full time teacher), I direct you to:
Here you will see a photo and description of Scrappy, a life-sized humanoid
creation made of household junk that offered my students fun hands-on
anatomy experiences without the blood, guts, and animal sacrifice usually
associated with the subject. For example, the rib cage is literally a cage;
the eyes are a View-master; and the lungs are soccer ball bladders inflated
by fireplace bellows. Scrappy is my own invention, which I built myself and
paid for out of my own pocket. It is also my entry in the PBS Teachers
Innovation Awards competition, which will be decided by a panel of judges.
Caution: Shameless plug follows!
If you like Scrappy, please click on the ?I like? thumbs up below my name,
?Ralph Miller III?. If you don?t like Scrappy, you may vote for any of the
other 700+ entries. This vote won?t decide who wins the awards, but it will
determine who wins PBS gift certificates.
And finally, my simplistic preschool anatomy curriculum outline (which was
included in my application, but is not posted at the above URL):
Unit 1: The Skeleton
Children feel the bones inside their bodies. Use Scrappy to discuss the
form and function of the skeleton. Children compare Scrappy to a plastic
skeleton. Children learn key bone vocabulary (skull, rib cage, etc.) with
printed labels on plastic skeleton model. Examine isolated bones and match
them to bones on the plastic skeleton. Compare our joints to hinges, ball
joints and other hardware. Sing Dem Bones, the Hokey Pokey, Where is
Thumbkin?, and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.
Key concept: Our skeletons provide support and protection, and enable
Unit 2: The Muscular System
Attach a rope below Scrappy's elbow joint. A short length of rope should
extend on either side of the rope knot. Pull the rope one way to flex the
elbow, and pull the rope around the elbow to extend the arm. Observe and
feel muscle extension and contraction on children?s arms. Play with
mechanical toys to study how they move.
Key concept: Opposing muscles flex and extend our body parts.
Unit 3: Circulatory and Respiratory Systems
Beat drum to broadcast heartbeat heard when placing ear onto a child's
chest. Note how the heart rate changes after exercise. Demonstrate how the
bellows inflate Scrappy's heart. Explain that this muscle -- the size of a
child's hand -- pumps night and day throughout our lives to move fresh
oxygen through the blood inside our bodies. Notice the blue veins you can
see under your skin. These veins carry blood back to the heart for fresh
Inhale and exhale. Feel your rib cage expand and contract. Inflate
Scrappy's soccer ball bladder lungs. When we breathe in, our lungs bring
fresh oxygen into the blood. When we breathe out, we get rid of the carbon
dioxide our body makes. (These molecules are represented by rolling clear
balls with beads inside them. Some have 2 black beads to represent oxygen
and some have 1 white bead and 2 black beads to represent carbon dioxide.
We trade the balls to represent the exchange that occurs when our body uses
up oxygen and produces carbon dioxide. We also trade balls to represent the
gas exchange that occurs when we inhale and exhale).
Key concepts: Our hearts and lungs pump blood and air all the time. Our
hearts and lungs work harder when we are more active.
Unit 4: Vision and Hearing
Play musical instruments and notice that vibrations produce different
sounds. Use Scrappy to discuss the form and function of our ears. Like a
funnel, the outer ear collects sound, which it directs into the ear drum,
which responds by vibrating. These structures are represented by Scrappy's
funnel and toy drum ears.
Ask the children if they have seen a 3-D movie. We have two eyes facing
forward, like tree-dwelling and predatory animals. This gives us the
ability to see in stereo or 3-D. Turn on Scrappy's light and look inside
the View-Master eyes. Cover one eyepiece and see how flat the image
becomes. Look at 3-D books and posters with 3-D glasses. Compare animal
skulls and discuss how various animals benefit from differing fields of view
and binocular vision.
Key concepts: Sounds are produced by vibrations. We hear sounds when our
ear drum vibrates. Two eyes facing forward afford advantages for people and
tree-dwelling and predatory animals.
Unit 5: Digestion
Remove the tubing sheath protecting Scrappy's scissor mouth. Demonstrate
how the scissors chop large pieces of paper up into small pieces. Eat
graham crackers. Compare children's incisors to Scrappy's scissor mouth.
Follow Scrappy's inner tube down to the football bladder stomach. Note the
sponge pieces in the stomach are small, denoting that the food has been
chewed. Squash and squeeze the football bladder stomach to represent the
muscular action of the stomach.
Follow the inner tube that extends below the stomach. Feel the balls inside
the inner tube intestines. Squeeze the inner tube to move the balls through
the inner tube intestines. Muscle contractions inside our intestines move
food waste through our gut until it exits the body.
Key concepts: Our teeth break up food into smaller pieces. Our stomachs
squash and churn food. Our intestines contract to push ingested food
through the digestive tract.
Ralph W. Miller III
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
Dinosaur and Fossil Education
Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology