Questions to Spark Interest and Creativity in A&P

The question can be more important than the answer…. at least if it is a question that motivates a student to find an answer.  Learning nomenclature can be dull, there is no doubt but if questions involve more than pure fact, perhaps even a little imagination, the learner might just find things to be interested in where there was no prior interest.

Giving students some unusual questions to answer about A&P topics might engage them creatively and help them make connections that they will remember and build on.  Try some of these questions in class, as extra credit on quizzes or to start students off making concept maps or mind maps.

The ‘it’ in the questions is the organ, tissue, pathway, process, physical concept or cell in study.

1) Could I live without it?  If not – how long would it take to die?  Would it hurt?

2) Is it at all involved in sex?

3) Can I palpate it, auscultate it, smell it or sense it in any other way?

4) Is it something we eat from animals or something we remove in the butchering process?

5) Does it (or any part of it) come in ___________ (enter favorite color here)?

6) What do we NOT understand about this?

7) Is this self-directed or automatic?  In other words, do I have to think about making this happen?

8) How would you phrase admiration of a good example or fine specimen of this in another person?

9) What celebrity would you choose to endorse better understanding of this and why?

10) What could you substitute for this and why?  (It’s all right to be whimsical or imaginative.)

11) Can you think of a piece of equipment or a process from sports or the arts that is similar?


Mindfulness & Meditation as Thinking Tools

It seems to me that the world becomes less and less conducive to quiet thought or insight… activities that can only aid a student studying complex physiological processes (or anything for that matter).  Your students are juggling a lot of input, much of which is presented with lots of bells and whistles.  The young ones have the impediments of inexperience, their likely position within Maslow’s Hierarchy or within Erikson’s Stages of development.   Certainly the impact of meditation on physiology is interesting (
Minding The Body
An exercise for your students follows this excerpt from an article.”
From: “Q&A: Jon Kabat-Zinn Talks About Bringing Mindfulness Meditation to Medicine: Meditation isn’t just for hippies any more. And it’s not all about saying ommmm” by Maia Szalavitz
“Recent studies from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that eight weeks of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) can actually produce thickening in particular regions of the brain important for learning, memory, executive decision-making and perspective-taking: all important functions to have at optimal levels when you are under stress or experiencing pain.  Also, certain regions get thinner like the amygdala, which involves threat and fear circuitry. If the amygdala is getting thinner after you’ve been practicing mindfulness for only eight weeks, I find that pretty amazing.

Working with Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin and his colleagues, we published a paper in 2003 showing that if you took people in a high tech work setting under very high levels of stress and trained them in MBSR in a randomized clinical trial, they showed a shift in activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in particular locations that earlier work had shown was related to the processing of emotion while under stress. The MBSR group shifted from having more right-sided activation in the PFC to more left-sided activation.”

Read more:
Retrieved May 9, 2012

There is a lot more to the article, but I thought you would particularly appreciate the descriptions of changes in the brain.  I am sure you would like to change the brains of many of your students.  Well, you may have to suggest this one for home use, but students could also come early and try this for 5 – 15 minutes prior to class.
Suggest to students a physiological function that they can notice or monitor in some way.  Encourage them to take the whole 5 – 15 minutes with eyes (and mouths) closed paying attention to that element of their own physiology.  Traditionally many meditations focus on feeling and noticing breath going in and breath going out.  One could monitor one’s radial pulse.  One could monitor apical pulse or any pulse!  One could focus on the intestines and strive to hear or feel movement.  One could swallow a bit of beverage every 30 seconds or so and notice it going down.  You could also encourage them to think about other aspects of whatever it is they are monitoring.  Alternately, they could let their perception travel from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet noticing their own body.  Awareness of themselves may have no effect, or it may engage them a little more deeply in the present and in their own potential as learners and as marvelous organisms.

Endocrine System

Creative activities to help your students learn about the Endocrine System.  Activities marked with an * are quick and could easily be incorporated into class.

1) Conversation Starter for Fight or Flight*
2) Hierarchical Endocrinism
3) Follow the Bouncing Hormones
4) Song about endocrine system from “Groovin’ in the Hippocampus”*

Ask the students to get into a comfortable position in their chairs. Turn off the lights (close shades if possible). Tell the students that when you begin they will be told to close their eyes. They are to keep them closed until told otherwise. They should also not make any sounds (don’t answer out loud any questions that may be asked). They are to only listen and use their imaginations.

Say (pausing …. after each suggestion): Close your eyes….Relax your feet….Relax your knees….Relax your thighs… Relax your stomach….Relax your hands….Relax your shoulders….Relax your chest….Relax your forehead. Imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful field of flowers….The smell is sweet….the colors are all of your favorites….there is no pollen to irritate you….you are perfectly relaxed….the sky is blue, with only small puffs of white clouds…. You look around and see a small dirt road leading into the most beautiful grove of trees….you decide to follow the road into the trees….As you walk on the road, the temperature gets cooler….there are still flowers among the trees…. You see the road makes a sharp turn ahead, and as you walk around the turn you notice a house at the end of the road….It is not large, but it is not small either….The house is not well kept, but it is not falling down either….You can tell that someone lives there…. You decide to go up to the house to see if anyone there could give you a drink of water….You walk up to the house and up the 3 broken steps to the front door….The door is standing open a little as you knock….No one answers your knock, so you knock again, a little louder….Now you hear a muffled sound coming from far inside the house….You look into the front room of the house and see clothes laying around….a half full glass of milk….and a kitchen in the back…. You hear the sound again….so you call out….again you hear a muffled sound from the back of the house….You walk into the house….looking around as you go towards the kitchen…. In the kitchen you notice a door, half open leading into blackness….you open the door and see steps leading down….you hear the muffled sound a little louder now coming from beneath the stairs…. You begin walking down the stairs, into the darkness….your hand brushes up against the cool wall….At the bottom of the stairs you hear the muffled sound coming from your right, and as you turn towards it your hand feels a wetness on the walls….You walk very slowly towards the sound….in the darkness….then A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A (teacher screams as loudly as possible) Open your eyes. What is your body doing right now????

Janet Weaver, Rosary School Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
retrieved from: The Educator’s Reference Desk

· Place the organs and hormones of the endocrine system into a political hierarchy at whatever level or type of organization (county / state / federal / university / community college / church) you like.  Assign positions or jobs and give explanations for the assigned titles and list job duties.

3) Follow the bouncing hormones:
This exercise requires a simple diagram of the entire human body.  You want something you can print to 8.5X11 size that shows major organs but not much else as it can get confusing otherwise.  A kinesthetic approach to learning the origin, path and outcomes of hormones is to trace them on the body. Here are a couple of diagrams if you don’t have something readily available.
without organs
with organs

Several ways:
1) laminate the sheet and use write on / wipe off markers to trace the paths, making sure to write onto the sheet what the starting point of the hormone is, show it’s target and write down the outcomes.  You can also make lines from the target of the hormone to effects or responses in a different part of the body.
2) Alternately you can use one sheet of paper for each hormone.
3) Ideally you do both.  The student can have a permanent record on the paper sheet and then practice on the write on  / wipe off sheet.  Encourage students to talk out loud as they draw the pathway so they hear, see and move through what they are studying.

Find ways to additionally use color – such as one color for hormones that originate in the anterior lobe of the pituitary, one color for those that come from the posterior lobe of the pituitary and another color for those that are released by the adrenal medullae after stimulation from the hypothalamus.  Students should place a key at the bottom of the papers if they are going to do this so they will remember what that color means.

4) Song from “Groovin’ in the Hippocampus”:
Hormones Rule (hormones and endocrine organs)