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)

Strategies for Encouraging Students to Make New Connections

When students make connections between facts, ideas, pathways, processes, styles, fields of study or problems, they are more likely to:
remember what they’ve thought about in making that connection;
be engaged by the process and think some more;
seek further information or connections.
I don’t have evidence for this beyond personal experience as a teacher and a learner.  But truly, it makes sense.

There are 3 sections here taken from newsletters about helping students make connections.
The first, Encouraging Connections,  has some basic ideas for encouraging students to make connections and opening that possibility within the classroom.
The second, Integrated Learning, was written with a focus on connections that cross fields of study.  This post was accompanied by an activity that encourages students to solve physiological problems using information, ideas and solutions from other classes, experiences or fields of study.  That exercise, Creatively Solving the Body’s Problems, can be found at this link: http://anatomyphysiologystudyguide.com/wp-content/study/solvingthebody.pdf

The third, Change the Way You Ask Questions suggests that wording, thinking and environment can help open the brain to new connections.


1) Encouraging Connections

Basically anything that encourages students to think less linearly; to associate things both within the field and between fields; to match, compare, contrast may help them make more memorable, thought provoking connections.  Here are a few ideas related to A&P.

· Pull out the flash cards and see who can make the most associations between 2 random cards.  Anything goes!

· Ascribe colors to body parts or processes and tell why you chose that color

· Name bones / hormones / cell types… after characters from movies or novels, share how you made your choices

· Decide what anatomic parts look like and try to associate their name with what it reminds you of.

· Develop hand signals to represent things.  A participant at a HAPS workshop I presented suggested the victory sign made with both hands and the v’s pointed towards each other simulating the phospholipid bilayer.  Her students made the sign at each other in the hallway.  Solidarity!

· Make ink blots and then have students say what is the first A&P related item or pathway the ink blot makes them think of.  Explore why.

2) Integrated Learning:

Although you alone can not develop an integrated learning program at your college or university wherein subjects are intentionally mixed or cross-taught (compiling principles, facts and activities between subjects), you can introduce this idea to your classroom and to your students.  Students who can see relationships between fields of study and even within the language of the classes they take are more likely to be interested, to ask questions and to remember what they think about.

Encourage students to compare what they learn in A&P to other classes, no matter the subject.  Is there any overlap in vocabulary, mechanics or ideas?  Can they find any similarities between principles, ideas or facts taught in different classes?  Do the same historical figures appear in different contexts?  Does a picture, idea, process or word remind them of something from another field?

Here is how to further encourage students to allow their thoughts, and their learning to cross subject barriers.
A) Be an example!  Share your own cross-subject musings / analyses and comparisons in lecture and lab.  There are lots of opportunities for mechanical comparisons with plumbing, and machinery in the human body.  See what other fields you can incorporate, or other comparisons you can make with your subject.

B) Encourage students to share their own cross-subject musings / analysis and comparisons in lecture and lab – or if there is no time, on a section of BlackBoard.  Have a contest to name the section.

C) Another way to think about it is to encourage metaphorical thinking.  Never belittle student metaphors – even if you think them silly, or non-scientific.  A metaphor, or comparison is active, engaged thinking that is much more likely to be remembered than memorizing a ‘fact,’ especially by a student who finds the fact dull.

D) While there are right answers for questions such as what kind of muscle tissue is found in the heart, there are not right answers for comparisons that engage student thinking, or for solutions to physiological or structural injuries or problems.

Hey – if Lady GaGa can make a dress, boots and hat out of raw meat, then surely we can come up with some interesting references, comparisons, or even models of the human body.

#3) Change the Way You Ask Questions
“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different”  – Nobel Prize winning physician, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
Change the way you ask questions to garner more answers.

In the case of solving physiological or structural problems with the body there are potentially many answers that could be ‘right’ or helpful.   Roger Von Oech, PhD, encourages us to generate and allow ‘second right answers’ and states the following in his book, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation, “One technique for finding the second right answer is to change the questions you use to probe a problem.  For example, how many times have you heard someone say, ‘What is the answer?’ or ‘What is the meaning?’ or ‘What is the result?’  These people are looking for the answer, and the meaning, and the result.  If you train yourself to ask, ‘What are the answers?’ and ‘What are the meanings?’ and ‘What are the results,’ you will find that people will think a little more deeply and offer more than one idea.”

When the host of the party is willing to hear more than one thought from more than one person, the conversation can become more dynamic, interesting and MEMORABLE!  You, the professor, are the host of the conversation in your classroom.  Allow deeper, fuller participation by allowing the broad range of experience and ideas in your students to surface, be shared and explored.