I’m really enjoying my move to Year Three this year because I get to experience new units and can see the bigger picture of how topics and concepts build throughout the school. I already wrote about our Year Three conflicts unit (click here to read that post). We have just concluded our second unit of the year, a Who We Are unit about body systems. I’d like to share a few highlights because it was packed with rich learning engagements that brought the fascinating science to life!
Central Idea: Understanding body systems connects to choices that affect health and wellness
Lines of Inquiry:
- Body systems and how they function
- The interdependence of body systems
- How we can ensure the health of our body systems and wellbeing
Related Concepts: Systems, Interdependence, Choices
These are some of the lessons that students enjoyed most, according to their post-unit feedback:
We kicked off the unit with a really simple pre-assessment task to see what students already knew about the human body. We gave them an outline of the body and asked them to draw, with notes, whatever they knew about the inside. The students found this surprisingly enjoyable, mostly because they were already quite knowledgeable and were keen to show us. Most were able to label key parts but were unable to explain their function or how they connect. This activity was also useful because it highlighted some misconceptions. Feel free to make a copy of the template.
The Virtuali-Tee by Curiscope allows students to see inside the human body (sort of) and explore it in augmented reality (AR). Simply download the app and point your device’s camera at the special tee to bring the body systems to life! This was my first time using the Virtuali-Tee. I was aware of the AR capabilities but I didn’t know about the great interactive features, such as informative voiceover and immersive 360 videos. Ideally, the students would have worn these but they were unable to due to current hygiene restrictions. Luckily, this one was a perfect fit for my teaching partner and we mirrored the iPad on the big screen. Student engagement was still through the roof and it prompted many further questions.
Ryan Krakofsky, one of our Technology and Innovation Coaches, was in quite a serious car accident before we started this unit. This gave us an opportunity! Ryan shared the MRI graphics from that experience. This made the content a little more concrete and real. The students had a lot of really thoughtful questions about the vulnerabilities of the human body and its ability to recover. Huge thanks to Ryan for his willingness to share this difficult experience. One student called the lesson “epic”.
Mystery Science is one of my go-to resources for science lessons. The content is presented in such fascinating and accessible ways, and the videos are accompanied by rich, hands-on follow-up activities. There were a few different Mystery Science lessons that connected to our unit, including a fascinating Halloween special about the skull. Our favourite was the Mystery about muscles and how they work with bones to make movements. The videos explained this brilliantly and students started to think about the interdependence of body systems. They used the Mystery Science resources to recreate fingers (as shown above). They were able to explain what each component in their model represented. For example, the string acted as a tendon, connecting the muscle to the finger bone.
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One of our favourite brain break activities is Just Dance (videos can be found on YouTube). This is an easy way to get students moving in class, even when social distancing measures are in place. In this instance, however, it wasn’t just a brain break. The students experienced how exercise affects heart rate and breathing, and this led to an inquiry into the circulatory system. Of course, jogging on the spot would have sufficed, but dancing is a lot more fun!
In such a content-rich unit, my students were learning a lot from information books and videos. I explained the benefits of adding visuals to their notes and taught them a few techniques (read more about sketchnoting here). My students are increasingly skilled at adding quick sketches to their notes while watching a video, for example. They understand that sketchnotes are not intended to be perfected works of art. Having said that, they also enjoyed expressing their understanding in more polished illustrations (as shown in the photos above).
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I worked with my friend and colleague, Kirsty Gibson, to see how we could use Ozobots to create a model of the circulatory system. We wondered if it would work and how we might use it to demonstrate the big ideas of this system. The best way to work through our questions was to roll up our sleeves and get coding! The video above shows our creation. It would have been brilliant for students to work collaboratively as we did, but students worked individually due to current restrictions. Still, they really enjoyed it! This was a great way to simultaneously learn about the circulatory system and Ozobot colour codes. Following this lesson, some students even coded additional body systems using their Ozobots at home!
Enjoy my @scratch animation of the digestive system! While @FredericYUE teaches my students the coding skills to create these, I thought I’d join the fun and learn alongside them. Thanks, Fred! Your guidance and scaffolding have been awesome! #VSAHKG pic.twitter.com/kJzzCSBupX
— Adam Hill (@AdamHillEDU) November 27, 2020
My students have been working with Fred Yue, another one of our Technology and Innovation Coaches, to code animations on Scratch. I joined my students to learn alongside them. Fred did an awesome job of scaffolding the learning and building on coding concepts, leading to this final project. I created the animation above to go through the process myself and ensure that I was fully equipped to support Fred in the lessons. The coding enhanced students’ understanding of body systems and, like me, they were proud of their final creations.
I have absolutely loved teaching this unit I have learnt a lot about body systems alongside my students! I hope that this post offers some ideas for your teaching, especially if you have a unit about the human body. What other activities do you suggest? Please share below and keep the ideas flowing!
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