Hands-on learning about anatomy

Second-graders study the workings of major organs

May 27, 2007|By David P. Greisman | David P. Greisman,Special to The Sun

Some people may wear their hearts on their sleeves, but the second-graders at Manchester Elementary School added other major organs to their outfits.

With glue, scissors and brown paper bags, the pupils fashioned anatomy aprons - vests on which they attached pictures of organs that they had cut out and colored in.

The project was part of a Carroll County lesson plan at Manchester that culminates each year in a public performance that combines biological education with musical presentation.

"They're seeing how all the organs work together and the importance of taking care of them," said Shelly Katzef, a health teacher at Manchester Elementary. "It leads into our other units in eating right and exercise, [and] it becomes more relevant to them when they learn about how important each organ is."

For three to four weeks, students from the school's six second-grade classes learned about the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and stomach. They learned three facts about each organ, and they performed experiments that demonstrated how their bodies work.

One experiment involved placing food inside plastic sandwich bags to simulate how the stomach turns solids into liquids. Students crushed the food and added water to break it down.

When it came time to learn about intestines, the children put oatmeal in stockings and attempted to push it through the material. By mixing the oatmeal with water, the process became easier, and they discovered the importance of being hydrated.

"The hands-on part is really exciting for kids in school," Katzef said. "And really seeing how that cookie or cracker turns into a liquid makes it more real. They really like squeezing the bag, and that demonstrates the muscles in our stomach contracting and relaxing."

Toward the end of the unit, the students took the facts they learned and put them to song in preparation for what has become a tradition at Manchester Elementary.

Last week, an audience of family members and other students assembled inside the school gymnasium. After a brief introduction, the show began.

Each class had been assigned one organ, a larger representation of which was affixed to a yardstick carried by a ceremonial flag bearer who led classmates onto a makeshift stage.

After reciting three facts - such as the heart is a muscle the size of your fist that pumps blood throughout your body - the children broke into song, accompanied by a piano.

Each song was arranged to the tune of a well-known children's melody: One class began with the lyrics, "Breathe, breathe, breathe it in," with the music of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" backing them.

"It's a great program," said Linda Kephart, supervisor of health and elementary physical education for the county school system. "This isn't in the state health curriculum. We've pulled it out of the science curriculum and put it in health.

"It's a great way for the children to show what they've learned, [and] it's a great way for the parents to understand what goes on in health education."

Katzef said the anatomy apron performance, which has been staged at Manchester for four years, has become a hit.

Third-graders eagerly wait to see the latest version of the program they had performed the year before, while the younger pupils anticipate passing to the second grade so they will get their chance, she said.

"First-graders come in [to second-grade] and are excited about being on stage and performing," Katzef said. "Then they're excited about experiments and learning."

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