Human anatomy isn't always the easiest subject to teach, or to learn. There are hundreds of major organs and bones in the human body, and well over a thousand smaller anatomical structures that students need to learn in more advanced levels of anatomy.
As early as grade school, children start studying the human body and learning where the most important organs are placed in the body. In past years, teachers had to resort to using diagrams in a book, life-sized plastic models, and sometimes even dissecting small animals like a frog.
There are problems with each of those approaches. For example, diagrams on paper are not always realistic, and it can sometimes be difficult to accurately identify where in the body the diagram applies to. When it comes to animal dissection, some children are disgusted by the prospect, and other children simply disagree with the act for ethical reasons.
Another solution is one that is offered by the folks over at SpongeLab called Build-A-Body
, which combined many different features to provide kids with a realistic and accurate tool to learn more about the human body.
Build a Body Main Page
The interactive application is actually just one offering as part of a larger informational website called SpongeLab. SpongeLab bills itself as "A Global Science Community." It is actually a massive site filled with science games, graphics, simulations, and a lot more. Build-A-Body is one of the highest-quality offerings from the site, and it is useful enough to be utilized in any classroom that is actively covering human anatomy.
Building Each System
The way this interactive system works is that the student builds one anatomical system at a time. The menu system at the top lets the student choose what system they want to work on next. For example, clicking the Digestive system brings up a list of organs on the right. Those organs make up the digestive system.
A student simply needs to drag the organs from the right menu over into the center pane where the blank human body is displayed. As long as the organ is placed over the general region of the body where it is supposed to go, it will "drop" into place inside the body.
As the student works through one organ at a time, they'll see how the entire system is laid out, from the digestive system all the way through to the circulatory system. Each time a new organ is selected from the right, a picture and a full description of that organ shows up on the left.
How Everything Works Together
Students will see not only where those organs and systems are laid out inside the body, but also how they are oriented with respect to one another. They'll see how the lungs are carefully encased by the ribs, or they'll note how the large intestines envelope the small intestines in the digestive system.
Human Skeletal Structure
The interactive tool doesn't only focus on organs either. Students will be able to piece together how the major parts of the human skeleton are connected together and where each bone goes. In much the same way, they'll also see how the many parts of the human nervous system are connected together and work together as one entire system.
Putting Together a Human Heart
One part of building the circulatory system includes piecing together each major section of the human heart. As the student selects each piece, the description on the left will guide them as they slowly put together a human heart just like a puzzle.
A Digital Model of Human Anatomy
When completed, the heart as well as other organs like the lymph nodes, veins and arteries are all shown in detail. Students will understand how the many smaller organs are interconnected in amazing ways, yet each remains as its own component that serves a critical function inside the human body.
Learning More About the Body
As though these interactive exercises weren't enough, this online tool also includes a dropdown list of diseases and other topics that you can click on to learn more. Each topic will pop up with an informational blurb and image on the left. This is a great way for students to see what organs are involved for particular diseases and how their behavior and failure contributes. You'll also find a few quizzes buried throughout, where students have to choose the right organ to answer the question.
For example, the "Largest Organ" quiz simply asks the student to select the largest internal organ in the human body from the list of organs on the right. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me a few guesses before I got the right answer! Give it a try and see if you can get it right the first time.
A Map of the Interactive Tool
If students get lost along the way, all they have to do is click on the question mark on the top menu and a heads-up style guide will appear on the screen. The guide shows a diagram of what each area of the tool is for, and how to use it.
Of all of the interactive science websites online today, this is definitely one of the more useful and well designed resources. It offers teachers a valuable place to help students practice what they've learned in class. At the very least, it is certainly a site that you'll want to bookmark on the classroom computer.
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