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October 15, 2015

Human Body: Engaging Nonfiction and Craft Partner Lessons

By Meghan Everette
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    One of my favorite things to teach in October is the human body. It lends itself so well to Halloween with skeletons and gross-outs, but it is completely based in science standards. We can read a lot of nonfiction that actually engages kids when we teach about the body. Here are a few of my favorite books and activities for teaching the human body.

     

    Skeleton body parts

    My students love learning about bones. The more facts they can get, the better. We use Bones by Steve Jenkins to learn about bones in our bodies, and bones in animal bodies. Then students use detailed bone images in reference books and online to label plastic skeletons.

    Bones Steve Jenkins

    I purchase detailed skeleton garlands from the dollar store. Students use sewing pins and paper labels to stick bone labels onto the skeletons. Ours are on a fabric-covered Styrofoam sheet, but you can achieve the same thing using sticky address labels instead of pins. After we are done, my students paint the skeletons for our Dia de los Muertos celebration, so this one purchase covers two activities!

    Slim Goodbody Stamped Shirts

    The digestive system is a little crude, and Burp! doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. Kids really get into the "gross factor" when reading about the digestive system. A simple activity to show how your body can break down foods is to put bread and a small amount of water in a sealed plastic bag and allow students to squish away, showing how the stomach breaks down your food.Burp! Dane Swanson

    A more in-depth project is creating "system" shirts. We included the heart and lungs, but the intestines and stomach were the real hit. To make the shirts, print body parts and cut them from thick cardboard to make “stamps.” Have students stamp one body part at a time in different colors onto the shirt. My students learned lots just from placing the stamps! (Then they wore them to see the famous Slim Goodbody.)

    Neuron Necklace

    My students are very interested in voluntary and involuntary responses by the body. Some have never realized their pupils dilate or questioned why they What Makes You Coughsneeze. What Makes You Cough, Sneeze, Burp, Hiccup, Blink, Yawn, Sweat, and Shiver? helps students identify the difference and know why our body reacts the way it does. We use this as a springboard to talk about our nervous system and the ways messages travel in our body.

    Students then make a neuron necklace from Easy Make & Learn Projects: Human Body downloaded from Teacher Express. We then stand in a circle and hold hands, making a chain reaction as each child lifts and lowers one hand around the circle, like making a wave in a sporting event.

    Paper muscle model

    Muscles are one thing each student gets excited to work during our body unit. The idea of contracting and expanding can be tricky. We use engaging Storia books on various levels to learn more about our muscles. Two of our favorites are Children’s Reference: The Human Body book and The Magic School Bus Pumps it Up.

    The Human Body Children's Reference Magic School Bus Pumps it Up

    To truly understand contracting and releasing muscles, students make a muscle model from Easy Make & Learn Projects: Human Body . They love how the model really moves and compare it to their own arms.

     

    Making a lung model

    Students get into the respiratory system after reading The Respiratory System. They love the real pictures used throughout the book. When we make The Respiratory System True Booka working lung, they really get engaged!

    Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle. Snip the top of an uninflated balloon and tie the balloon mouth. Fit this over the cut-open end of the bottle. Then secure another balloon around a straw using tape. Fit the straw and balloon in the mouth of the bottle and use Play-doh to make an airtight seal. Have students gently pull the bottom balloon, which will make the interior balloon inflate, like a real lung!

    Making a lung supplies

    Artery cup experiment

    The Circulatory system is fun and easy to understand with The Circulatory Story. Students test their knowledge after using the StudyJams! interactive activity on the circulatory system (and bonus: there is a StudyJams! for all the systems). The Circulatory Story

    Students learn that heart disease can narrow the arteries to the heart. To see the effect of this, we seal two different thicknesses of straws in plastic cups. We fill both cups with dyed red water and watch as the straw that is thicker allows more “blood” to pass more quickly.

    These are just a few of the overwhelming number of body system books available and some of the fun, interactive ways we explore the body in our classroom.

    What ways are you using interactives and crafts to build engagement when learning about the body?

     

    One of my favorite things to teach in October is the human body. It lends itself so well to Halloween with skeletons and gross-outs, but it is completely based in science standards. We can read a lot of nonfiction that actually engages kids when we teach about the body. Here are a few of my favorite books and activities for teaching the human body.

     

    Skeleton body parts

    My students love learning about bones. The more facts they can get, the better. We use Bones by Steve Jenkins to learn about bones in our bodies, and bones in animal bodies. Then students use detailed bone images in reference books and online to label plastic skeletons.

    Bones Steve Jenkins

    I purchase detailed skeleton garlands from the dollar store. Students use sewing pins and paper labels to stick bone labels onto the skeletons. Ours are on a fabric-covered Styrofoam sheet, but you can achieve the same thing using sticky address labels instead of pins. After we are done, my students paint the skeletons for our Dia de los Muertos celebration, so this one purchase covers two activities!

    Slim Goodbody Stamped Shirts

    The digestive system is a little crude, and Burp! doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. Kids really get into the "gross factor" when reading about the digestive system. A simple activity to show how your body can break down foods is to put bread and a small amount of water in a sealed plastic bag and allow students to squish away, showing how the stomach breaks down your food.Burp! Dane Swanson

    A more in-depth project is creating "system" shirts. We included the heart and lungs, but the intestines and stomach were the real hit. To make the shirts, print body parts and cut them from thick cardboard to make “stamps.” Have students stamp one body part at a time in different colors onto the shirt. My students learned lots just from placing the stamps! (Then they wore them to see the famous Slim Goodbody.)

    Neuron Necklace

    My students are very interested in voluntary and involuntary responses by the body. Some have never realized their pupils dilate or questioned why they What Makes You Coughsneeze. What Makes You Cough, Sneeze, Burp, Hiccup, Blink, Yawn, Sweat, and Shiver? helps students identify the difference and know why our body reacts the way it does. We use this as a springboard to talk about our nervous system and the ways messages travel in our body.

    Students then make a neuron necklace from Easy Make & Learn Projects: Human Body downloaded from Teacher Express. We then stand in a circle and hold hands, making a chain reaction as each child lifts and lowers one hand around the circle, like making a wave in a sporting event.

    Paper muscle model

    Muscles are one thing each student gets excited to work during our body unit. The idea of contracting and expanding can be tricky. We use engaging Storia books on various levels to learn more about our muscles. Two of our favorites are Children’s Reference: The Human Body book and The Magic School Bus Pumps it Up.

    The Human Body Children's Reference Magic School Bus Pumps it Up

    To truly understand contracting and releasing muscles, students make a muscle model from Easy Make & Learn Projects: Human Body . They love how the model really moves and compare it to their own arms.

     

    Making a lung model

    Students get into the respiratory system after reading The Respiratory System. They love the real pictures used throughout the book. When we make The Respiratory System True Booka working lung, they really get engaged!

    Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle. Snip the top of an uninflated balloon and tie the balloon mouth. Fit this over the cut-open end of the bottle. Then secure another balloon around a straw using tape. Fit the straw and balloon in the mouth of the bottle and use Play-doh to make an airtight seal. Have students gently pull the bottom balloon, which will make the interior balloon inflate, like a real lung!

    Making a lung supplies

    Artery cup experiment

    The Circulatory system is fun and easy to understand with The Circulatory Story. Students test their knowledge after using the StudyJams! interactive activity on the circulatory system (and bonus: there is a StudyJams! for all the systems). The Circulatory Story

    Students learn that heart disease can narrow the arteries to the heart. To see the effect of this, we seal two different thicknesses of straws in plastic cups. We fill both cups with dyed red water and watch as the straw that is thicker allows more “blood” to pass more quickly.

    These are just a few of the overwhelming number of body system books available and some of the fun, interactive ways we explore the body in our classroom.

    What ways are you using interactives and crafts to build engagement when learning about the body?

     

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