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Organ Dissections: One Day Medical Residency at U of B

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Photo: These University of Bunyi medical students are shown dissecting and observing a pig heart.

I debated with myself this morning on what to write about. With about ten topics tempting me, I had to go with this one. Dissecting cow eyes, pig hearts, pig kidneys, and sheep brains just can't be ignored. So, put your medical scrubs on and see what happened at the University of Bunyi Medical School last week. 

The Human Body Project

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

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 gave my students a free-ride under this 5 week program (aka-me and community donations and support).

Here is a link to our complete health unit:

The Human Body Project

This includes, virtually, everything you need to complete this project from start to finish (minus you ordering the organs). From printables to Internet links of video dissections, very little planning will be required on your part. I ordered the organs two weeks before dissections for about one hundred dollars. I think it was totally worth it. Medical scrubs were donated by a local hospital and a few quick phone calls secured the medical specialists that helped out with dissections (and one Facebook message even). It is worth stating that this entire unit took up minimal class time for us.

Our Medical Program

The program consisted of three required components:

1. Creating a model organ and presenting it in our "museum". You can see one of the models made by a student below (human eye on a stand).

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

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

Our Medical Residency

Photo: This is the Ophthalmologist group. If you look closely, the short child at the front left is my son Eli. Most groups had 4 students working with a specialist.

Photo: A local hospital donated all the medical scrub/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, but I'll spare you the details on how I messed that one up!
Photo: The students actually took home the retina and the lens of the cow eyes to show and tell their family. You can only guess what the ride home on the bus might have looked and sounded like.

From Our Research Presentations


Photo: Gabe presents an interactive Powerpoint presentation, using audio, animation, and a wireless Interwrite pad to write on the slides. Gabe was admitted in the neurologist program. It was very informative! I so need to post about my Interwrite pad. Love it, love it!

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 to present.

Bring in the Models

Photo: This student used wiki sticks, a printer, and flower materials to create a human heart model.
Photo: This was a project model of how blood gets pumped through the heart. It was amazing!
Photo: I am still trying to convince this student to donate this to me. So far, it's a big fat no.

Bonus: An Ode to the Froggy Jokester....

So, I felt it was only right to let teachers know (via email) that we completed dissections on the lunch tables in the lounge. With no running water in our classroom, I really didn't have a choice. Someone was just a little too cute, and pasted these all over the cafeteria tables. Whoever did this is one funny person!

Frog_lungs Frog_heart Frog_note Frog_legs


Usually, lesson plans and unit plans stand on their own. With this being such a unique unit, I encourage you to ask away about planning this in your room. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher friend, Mrs. Burt, do something like this last year. I borrowed her packet, her ordering tips, and made it my own. Maybe you can do the same!

P.S. In the main photo, you will find my proud six-year old, Dr. Eli. He completed "dissections" followed by participating in my Science Olympiad practice sessions after school. It was a big science day for him. He even "won" the barge building competition and helped demonstrate prisms on an overhead for a small group of 3-5 students.


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What I used is copyrighted so I can't post it here. It came with the organs ordered from www.carolina.com.

Your plan sounds exciting. I hope it goes well!



I'm interested in using your materials in my ESOL 6th grade English classroom to supplement our text selections about the human body. We won't be doing dissection, but, I am interested in the other MCAT quizzes that you prepared for your students. Would it be possible to get those?

Thanks so much!



Congratulations on making me excited about a workbook. This will be my first and probably last time I'll say that, but your link is exactly what I saw in the Japanese schools (but in Japanese of course!). It's not so much a workbook, but a resource that explains the concept in depth. I love it. I am going to forward this link onto my administration and see about piloting a few myself. I hope others look at the site you provided as well.

Domo arigato!



Hi Angela,

Thanks so much for your reply. I have found similar characteristics (as the excerpt you sent me) when I read the translated Japanese Text books (check out...http://www.globaledresources.com/ ), which I discovered when one of the translators came and spoke at a local Math Leadership conference a few years ago. I was so impressed with the depth of thinking behind what we might see as very common activities and questions, and how they are used to foster rich discussions. What was most interesting to me, and which I now do in my math lessons, is that the lessons often focus on ONE problem to be solved with a specific intended learning. It is the BANSHO ('board talk') (or discussion time) that is the main part of the lesson after students have solved the problem. I had never thought that one problem could take us one to two periods to explore, but I have found that by teaching this way, my grade 1 and 2 students are much better able to communicate their thinking than when I taught the conventional way. That is why I was so interested to hear about your experiences...
The curriculum content is also very differently organized, with a VERY strong focus on number from grade 1 on, with Grade 1 being almost ALL number for the whole year...Compared to our curriculum (at least here in Ontario), each grade in Japan covers about a year and a half of our curriculum content. So by the end of grade 3 in Japan, the students are learning what our kids do in Grade 4 and 5, and the textbooks are comparatively tiny.

I really appreciated your response, and look forward to future posts on your blog and site. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy day to email me.

Have a wonderful week!



Thank you so very, very much for your uplifting email to me. I really run on them and am confident I am the teacher I am because of people like you that write me and say I have motivated and inspired them. I also feel honored to be placed in the same category as Beth. I am always humbled to be compared to her as she was my inspiration on starting my site. 73,000 visitors later, I still can't believe it.

Regarding my time in Japan through the Fulbright Memorial Fund. I am so sad that this opportunity is now closed to teachers. It was a true once in a lifetime experience. To answer your question, I did notice a lot of word problem, puzzle type approaches to math. I have one math "worksheet" that I kept from a middle school. Although it is in Japanese, I remember being impressed with the type of questions. It was catchy and unique. It bothers me that I don't remember some of the questions. It was very different to our traditional approaches.

Also, we use a math notebook frequently in our classroom. Part of this comes from Japanese research. This is something my assistant principal sent to our faculty last week to support that. I am thinking notebooking helps with that missing component talked about below. I am not sure how this translates in Canada:

Mayer, R., Sims, V., and Tajika, H., (1995) found that in a brief study that compared the lessons on addition and subtraction of signed whole numbers in 3 seventh grade Japanese mathematics textbooks with the corresponding lesson in 4 US mathematics textbooks, the results indicated that:
*the Japanese textbooks contained many more worked-out examples and relevant illustrations that the US books, whereas US books contained roughly as many exercises and many more irrelevant illustrations.
*Japanese textbooks devoted 81% of their space to explaining the solution procedure for worked out examples compared to only 36% in US books. In contrast, the US devoted 64% to unsolved exercises and interest grabbing illustrations irrelevant to the lesson.
*One of the US books and all 3 Japanese books used meaningful instructional methods emphasizing
a) multiple representations of how to solve worked-out examples using words, symbols, & pictures.
b) inductive organization of material beginning with familiar situations and ending with formal statement of the solution rule.
The results of the study were consistent with classroom observations showing that Japanese mathematics instruction tends to emphasize the process of problem solving more effectively than the US mathematics instruction.
American Educational Research Journal, 32, 443-460, 1995.

Stay energized....and good luck!


Anna Dutfield

Dear Angela,

Your website INSPIRES me!!! I thought you should know that! I am currently a Grade 1 and 2 teacher in Toronto, Ontario, and will be moving back to Junior (grades 4 and 5) next year, after a few years exploring the primary grades. I taught Junior students for over a decade, and wanted to see where my students "started" in their learning, and so I asked to teach grade 1 (the only grade I hadn't taught until last year). I absolutely love the primary kids, but I know that due to my ability to speak and teach french as a second language, I will be back in the junior grades next year. Now, though, I have a real sense of where my future students started in their learning with the balanced literacy progam that we implement.

Okay...long winded explanation of who I am...SORRY! I have been on March Break this week, and I confess that I found your website via a google search on Grade 4 Classrooms, and your site came up. I tried a few others that popped up, but yours is by far the most wonderful site I have found (a close second is Ms. Newingham's grade 3 site). I have been wondering how I can (will) transfer everything I am doing in my primary classroom to my junior kids and still make it equally meaningful and interesting for older children. Based on all your descriptions, videos, and photos, and books you (and I) have read, I believe we have VERY similar philosophies, and...You INSPIRED me! I spent more time this week visiting your site and planning and thinking about next year than planning for the next three months (although I did that too...). THEN, I found your scholastic blog. WOW again!!! I wanted to let you know that I THANK YOU SO MUCH for your motivational web and Scholastic sites. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING SO MUCH OF YOURSELF AS AN EDUCATOR!

I do have a question about your time in Japan (another WOW!!! and dream of mine...). I am the math specialist and lead teacher at my school, and I love it as much as I love the literacy teaching. When you were in Japan, did you have any opportunities to observe any lesson studies (in math) or problem solving teaching methods in math? I have been very interested over the last few years about how Japanese teachers teach math, particularly to primary and junior students. If you saw or noticed anything, I would be very curious to pick your brain...

From a very re-energized teacher, (back to work tomorrow!)
Anna Dutfield
Roywood Public School
Grade 1 and 2
Toronto District School Board, Ontario Canada

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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