My grade 10’s are wrapping up their biology unit. We’ve had to take a few pauses and breaks to do some physics throughout the unit, but we’re almost done. They worked in small groups and used a case study as the basis for their work on the human body systems and specialization. Groups started by researching their specific case and then moved to create a product that would teach their classmates about the body system they studied (video, presentation, model, report, etc.). They also designed their own dissection to compare an animal system to the human system and a microscope activity looking at specialized cells pertaining to their case. Lastly they are highlighting a relevant public health initiative connected to their case study and a medical technology.
Today as I sat back and actually thought about the questions I was getting from students, something dawned on me. Part of the reason for this could be that I’ve not really taught an academic course for years, but I think most of it has to do with the approach students took to learning the material. The students have gained a knowledge about the human body systems in terms of how they work together much more than I’ve ever had a class do before. When I last taught a course (many years ago), I would have taught each body system separately. Because students approached this by looking at cases and researching material on their own, they have a much better understanding on how all the parts play together.
Normally, I would expect much more specific questions about specific body systems and how they work. Instead, I am getting questions or comments like “drug and alcohol abuse relate to the digestive system because they are absorbed through the small intestine wall into the blood stream, right? And then that goes all over the body?”. Or, “it is motor neurons (not sensory) that come up to the neuromuscular joint and cause the muscle to contract right? The striations?”. These questions make me do a little dance and grin like a fool…
I’m sold. My students have gained such a wide-spread understanding of how systems work together and picked up things that I would never have “taught” them. They have also engaged in excellent research skills and had to make connections between different sources of material.
I’m not 100% sure that every student took home the exact same learning about each system (in fact, i’m confident that they didn’t’). However, I’m certain that they each went deeply into one system and then learned from their peers about the other systems.