As many of you know, I teach a science class for local area homeschool students that I have come to call STEM Club. Our focus this cycle is human anatomy or human body systems.
Each week, I will be sharing with you the hands-on activities and inquiry based labs that I use with my students. If you follow along with me and do the suggested extension activities, the material covered will be equivalent to a full semester course.
Getting Started – Printables
The biological levels of organization of living things arranged from the simplest to most complex are: organelle, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystem, and biosphere.
To review this with my STEM Club students, I created a levels of organization printable chart and asked that they complete it as homework in advance of our first class.
The purpose of this unit is to understand that there are different systems within the body and that they work independently and together to form a functioning human body. At the middle school level, students should begin to view the body as a system, in which parts do things for other parts and for the organism as a whole.
To assess the students’ prior knowledge, I distributed a black outline master of the human body and asked them to draw and label the parts of the body that they knew.
I also created an accordion style mini-book of the body systems that we will use throughout the unit. Students were asked to print it and secure it in their notebooks for easy reference and note taking throughout the course.
Lastly, they were asked to complete the vocabulary worksheet.
The FREE download link for each of these printables will be available to my newsletter subscribers.
The Human Body Systems
Integumentary System – the organ system that protects the body from various kinds of damage, such as loss of water or abrasion from outside. Major organs include skin (epidermis, dermis, hypodermis), hair, nails, and exocrine glands.
Nervous System – consists of the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs, and all of the nerves that connect these organs with the rest of the body. Together, these organs are responsible for the control of the body and communication among its parts.
Endrocrine System – includes all of the glands of the body and the hormones produced by those glands. The glands are controlled directly by stimulation from the nervous system as well as by chemical receptors in the blood and hormones produced by other glands.
The endocrine system works alongside of the nervous system to form the control systems of the body. The nervous system provides a very fast and narrowly targeted system to turn on specific glands and muscles throughout the body. The endocrine system, on the other hand, is much slower acting, but has very widespread, long lasting, and powerful effects.
Head to Toe Science by Jim Wiese is a collection of demonstrations that illustrate scientific principles about the human body. The projects are geared to 9-12 year olds and arranged by system (nervous, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, muscular, skeletal, reproductive, and integumentary).
Each project includes an introduction, a list of materials, procedural guidelines, and an explanation of the science involved. It is a great resources for hands-on activities and demonstrations. The instructions are easy to follow and include fun facts to keep kids interested.
It is definitely worth buying, even though the activities are not inquiry based, as it provides background information and vocabulary. Some of the activities in the book are too simple for even junior high but most are perfect for middle school age learners.
Skeletal System – includes all of the bones and joints in the body. Each bone is a complex living organ that is made up of many cells, protein fibers, and minerals. The skeleton acts as a scaffold by providing support and protection for the soft tissues that make up the rest of the body.
Muscular System – responsible for the movement of the human body. Attached to the bones of the skeletal system are about 700 named muscles that make up roughly half of a person’s body weight. Each of these muscles is a discrete organ constructed of skeletal muscle tissue, blood vessels, tendons, and nerves.
Digestive System – a group of organs working together to convert food into energy and basic nutrients to feed the entire body. Food passes through a long tube inside the body known as the alimentary canal or the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). The alimentary canal is made up of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, and large intestines.
I highly recommend Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt (geared for ages 13-16). I know what you are thinking. “A color book? Really?! ”
Yes, really. Each detailed illustration in the Human Anatomy Coloring Book is accompanied by concise, informative text and suggestions for coloring. Numerous views, cross-sections, and other diagrams are included for each of the body’s organs and major systems.
Combine inquiry based activities and demonstrations that illustrate scientific principle, the memorization of vocabulary, and daily practice tracing the organ systems with the aide of this book and will discover your students will not only understand how their body works but will be able to illustrate the organs as they share what they know.
For younger students (ages 3 to 11), I recommend the alternative, My First Human Body Book by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne. It includes 28 fun and instructive, ready-to-color illustrations that explore the human body systems. The illustrations are detailed and yet simple enough to not be overwhelming.
Excretory / Urinary System – consists of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter the blood to remove wastes and produce urine. The ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra together form the urinary tract, which acts as a plumbing system to drain urine from the kidneys, store it, and then release it during urination. Besides filtering and eliminating wastes from the body, the urinary system also maintains the homeostasis of water, ions, pH, blood pressure, calcium, and red blood cells.
Respiratory System – provides oxygen to the body’s cells while removing carbon dioxide, a waste product that can be lethal if allowed to accumulate. There are 3 major parts of the respiratory system: the airway, the lungs, and the muscles of respiration. The airway, which includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles, carries air between the lungs and the body’s exterior.
Cardiovascular / Circulatory System – consists of the heart, blood vessels, and the approximately 5 liters of blood that the blood vessels transport. Responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and cellular waste products throughout the body, the cardiovascular system is powered by the body’s hardest-working organ — the heart.
Blood and Guts by Linda Allison is written for the middle school aged student and is organized well. The author devotes a chapter to each of the following topics: skin, bones, teeth, muscles, heart, lungs, cells, digestion, kidneys, eyes, ears, balance, brain and nervous system, and reproduction. She provides a basic but informative narrative for each as well as illustrations.
Numerous hands-on activities and demonstrations are described for students to try. Most are relatively simple but some are difficult and require adult supervision; others require materials that may be difficult to find.
The book uses cartoon illustrations (as shown on the cover). I would suggest supplementing with models, more accurate drawings (the Dover Publication mentioned above, for example), and photos.
Lymphatic / Immune System – our body’s defense system against infectious pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi as well as parasitic animals and protists. The immune system works to keep these harmful agents out of the body and attacks those that manage to enter. The lymphatic system is a system of capillaries, vessels, nodes and other organs that transport a fluid called lymph from the tissues as it returns to the bloodstream. The lymphatic tissue of these organs filters and cleans the lymph of any debris, abnormal cells, or pathogens. The lymphatic system also transports fatty acids from the intestines to the circulatory system.
Reproductive System – The female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, vulva, mammary glands and breasts. These organs are involved in the production and transportation of gametes and the production of sex hormones. The female reproductive system also facilitates the fertilization of ova by sperm and supports the development of offspring during pregnancy and infancy.
The male reproductive system includes the scrotum, testes, spermatic ducts, sex glands, and penis. These organs work together to produce sperm, the male gamete, and the other components of semen. These organs also work together to deliver semen out of the body and into the vagina where it can fertilize egg cells to produce offspring.
Next week we will explore the integumentary system in depth. I will share a few demonstration activities as well as an inquiry science activity that tests our sense of touch, or somatosensation. You won’t want to miss it!