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Inspiring Future Medical Professionals

By Angela Bunyi on November 12, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

With the flu season approaching, you may be thinking of seasonal health lessons to meet your state standards. If so, I have a unique health unit ready to go, with nine PDF files, photo slide shows, grading rubrics, student packets, and even medical name tags. If you are comfortable having students dissect cow eyes, pig hearts and kidneys, and sheep brains, then put on your medical scrubs and read on!

With the flu season approaching, you may be thinking of seasonal health lessons to meet your state standards. If so, I have a unique health unit ready to go, with nine PDF files, photo slide shows, grading rubrics, student packets, and even medical name tags. If you are comfortable having students dissect cow eyes, pig hearts and kidneys, and sheep brains, then put on your medical scrubs and read on!

Photo: After an in-depth health unit, a group of five student "cardiologists" were able to dissect a pig heart.



~ The unit overview below, published by Scholastic in 2008, includes three separate lessons with all necessary printables and guidelines.

~ The culminating project introduced in lesson three involves specialized organ dissections for each student's area of study.

~ The unit lasts five weeks; most of this time is spent doing independent projects and presentations.

~ Following the unit overview, you will find general tips from my own experience to help you launch a unit like this in your classroom.

The Human Body Project

A student is dissecting a cow's eye with the help of a medical specialist.

Photo: A student dissects a cow eye with the help of a medical specialist. 

In this unit, students will research and assume the roles of medical specialists through hands-on projects, research, reports, and presentations. Culminating activities will include working with a health specialist to dissect or observe the dissection of cow eyes, sheep brains, pig lungs and hearts, or various bones (including cow, rodent, and human bones).

National Health Standards

  1. Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention. 
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid health information and health promoting products and services.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health enhancing behaviors and reduce health risks.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health. 
  5. Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.

Students will:

  1. Select a body system to investigate and research.
  2. Complete a hands-on project to demonstrate knowledge of a body system.
  3. Students will create a fact sheet to teach students about a particular body system.
  4. Students will rotate through stations (the "Medical Artifact Museum") to view and discuss human body projects.
  5. Use appropriate Internet resources to research and investigate assigned body systems.
  6. Present a research report to a group of peers.
  7. Be assessed on oral presentation skills.
  8. Successfully complete a Medical Classroom Admission Test (MCAT) assessment with a score of 85% or above.
  9. Use research notes and medical tests to help dissect and identify various body system parts.
  10. Work with a medical specialist to help dissect and learn about various body system parts.
  11. Present conclusive findings from medical residencies with peers.
  12. Recruit and listen to health experts in their studied field.

 Lesson 1: Learning How the Body Works
 Lesson 2: Researching the Human Body Systems
 Lesson 3: Human Body Project Residency

Human Body Project Letter (PDF) 
Museum Name Tags (PDF) 
"Systems of the Body" Lyrics (PDF) 
Human Body Project Packet (PDF) 
Sample MCAT Study Materials: Eyes (PDF) 
Internet Research Sites (PDF) 
MCAT Degree Template (PDF) 
University Acceptance Letter (PDF) 
Residency Chart (PDF) 


Lesson Three: Human Body Project Residency is the culminating activity for this unit. It includes working with a medical specialist to help dissect or observe the dissection of a mammal organ.


Books for Learning About the Human Body 

  • Ballard, Carol. Lungs: Injury, Illness and Health. Heinemann, 2003.
  • Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions About Blood and Circulation. 21st Century, 2001.
  • Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions About Food and Digestion. 21st Century, 2002.
  • Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions About Skin That Got Under Your Skin . . . Until Now. 21st Century, 1999.
  • Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions About Your Immune System. 21st Century, 2000.
  • Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses. Scholastic, 2001.
  • Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body. Scholastic, 1990.
  • DK Publishing. Skeleton. DK Children, 2004.
  • DK Publishing. Human Body. DK Adult, 1995.
  • LeMaster, Leslie Jean. Cells and Tissues. Children's Press, c1985.
  • McPhee, Andrew T. Sleep and Dreams. Franklin Watts, 2001.
  • Parsons, Jayne. Encyclopedia of the Human Body. DK Children, 2002.
  • Seckel, Al. The Art of Optical Illusions. Carlton Books, 2000.
  • Simon, Seymour. The Brain: Our Nervous System. HarperCollins, 2006.
  • Simon, Seymour. Guts: Our Digestive System. HarperCollins, 2005.
  • Simon, Seymour. Lungs: Your Respiratory System. HarperCollins, 2007.


2010 Reflections: General Tips and Suggestions

Essentially, this was an independent, student-driven health unit. The students truly were the teachers, as we learned by doing, creating, and presenting to each other. I learned so much from the students and depended on their knowledge to guide this project.

In my class, students applied to attend the University of Bunyi Medical Program as either a cardiologist, pulmonary specialist, orthopedic specialist, neurologist, or ophthalmologist. A generous scholarship fund (aka me and community donations and support) gave my students a free ride for this five-week program.

Very little planning is required for this unit. I ordered the organs two weeks before the dissections for about one hundred dollars. At the time, I taught in a portable classroom without access to a science lab. Since then I have moved schools and have access to a fully-stocked science lab, with an instructor and dissection tools. Medical scrubs were donated by a local hospital and a few quick phone calls (and one Facebook message) secured the medical specialists that helped out with dissections. It is also worth stating that this entire unit took up a minimum of our class time.

Our Medical Program Overview

The program consisted of three required components:

1. Creating a model organ and presenting it in the "museum." Below you can see one of the human eye models made by a student.

2. Writing a research paper and presenting findings to a panel of peers. This was a great way to reinforce skills such as writing an outline, using headings, incorporating pronunciation guides into writing, and giving credit for resources.

3. Passing an "MCAT" before participating in a one-day medical residency with a medical specialist.


Photo Slide Shows

Bring in the Models: Lesson One


Photo: This student used Wikki Stix, a printer, and floral foam to create a human heart model.


Photo: This model showed how blood gets pumped through the heart. It was amazing!


Photo: I tried to convince this student to donate this eye to me. I got a big, fat "no."


From Our Research Presentations: Lesson Two


Photo: Gabe presents an interactive PowerPoint presentation using audio, animation, and a wireless InterWrite pad to write on the slides. Gabe was admitted to the neurologist program. His presentation was very informative!

Photo: This student brought in a poster and three health models for her presentation. Although visual support materials were optional, nearly all students brought in something unique.

Download a sample PowerPoint presentation on the heart by a student cardiologist.


Our Medical Residency: Lesson Three
Photo: This is the ophthalmologist group. The short child at the front left is my son Eli. He was five at the time. Most groups had four students working with a specialist. 

Photo: A local hospital donated all the scrubs and the medical gear. The organs were purchased at www.carolina.com. I highly recommend this site. The organs can be stored for up to a month and did not smell nearly as bad as I thought they would. 

Photo: My mother-in-law worked with this group of students to dissect and discuss the kidney. Originally, this group was supposed to work with pig lungs. . . . I'll spare you the details on how I messed that one up! 
Photo: The students actually took home the retinas and the lenses of the cow eyes to show and tell with their families. I can only imagine what the bus ride home looked and sounded like.


Have you tried something like this before? Ruth Manna posted a lesson on shark dissections and past advisor Marissa Ochoa wrote about squid dissections. My former teaching partner, who taught my class science, went fishing and used the fish for a dissection lesson, which is a free alternative. She also completed an owl pellet dissection lesson. You can see her fish dissection photos here. Feel free to share what has worked in your classroom!

Visit our class home page to learn more about this unit.

Comments (7)

Hello! I love your unit. I was trying to access the documents that were listed in the various lessons but it will not let me access them. I was also wondering if you have any other documents that go with the unit. Thank you!


I am having a hard time finding the documents on your website. Are they under the downloads section on the left side bar? Thanks for your help!



I will be making a trip to my classroom tomorrow. I'll get a scanned copy up on my site under the download link/page by the evening.




I would love a scanned copy, if it's not too much trouble! They look fabulous and I'm reading the book and anxious to get started!


Hello Dawn,

I wish I could help you out, but much of what I formally had went down the drain after a laptop crashed and burned. That was one of them. I could scan them, if you are interested. Let me know.



How wonderful that your students can experience this! These are the things they remember and make the most impact on their learning.

I was exploring your website and am looking into the cafe book and I love the posters you have for the board. Are those available for download? I noticed you had some general ones on your download page, but the ones in your picture look much more involved and useful. I would love access to those if possible. Thanks for sharing your amazing work...it makes our lives a little less hectic!

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