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Journey through the Digestive System

Subject: Our Bodies, Science
Grade: 9-12

Richard Lord, who teaches at Presque Isle (Maine) High School, submitted this week's lesson -- about the digestive system.

Brief Description

Students work in cooperative groups to design a theme park called Gastro World, based on the anatomy and physiology of the digestive system. Students prepare a portfolio of the park's attractions and construct a model of it.


Students learn about the anatomy and physiology of the digestive system and design and create a model that demonstrates their understanding.


digestive system, digestion, human body, theme park, design, portfolio

Materials Needed

Interactive Digestive Tour BodyQuest Digestive System (all Web sites are optional) textbooks, reference books, and other materials about the digestive system a variety of model building materials (see lesson for possible materials)

Lesson Plan

After students study the anatomy and physiology of the human digestive system, either in class or online (see sites listed above), organize them into large groups and provide the following explanations and directions.

Explanations: Say to students:

  • Your group is the design team for Gastro World, a theme park based on the human digestive system. The proposed park will contain at least eight attractions, such as rides, games, shows, and simulations, each of which will allow participants to experience some aspect of the digestive system and/or the digestive process.
  • A theme park is more than just an amusement park, although they have many elements in common. Amusement parks usually contain a collection of diverse attractions, such as games, rides, concessions, and exhibits. A theme park typically has a more elaborate scale than an amusement park does, and attractions revolve around a common theme. Ordinary amusement park attractions are often transformed to fit the theme of a theme park. For example, a common amusement park ride is a roller coaster. Most theme parks also contain roller coasters, but they are altered to fit a new theme. Roller coasters might become sea monsters, arctic polar coasters, or space voyages. Many theme parks also contain large, luxurious constructions in which participants ride through the structures and pass through lavish, often interactive, displays designed to entertain or teach.

Directions: Say to students:

  • Discuss theme parks that members of your group have visited, read about, or seen on television. Talk about the most memorable attractions, what made them memorable, what you learned from them, and how you might incorporate ideas from those parks into the design of Gastro World.
  • Select a group leader. The leader's responsibility is to keep the group on task and to make sure that everyone participates in a fair and equitable manner. The leader should also be aware of what everyone in the group is doing so that when the elements of the project are finally put together, nothing will be missing.
  • Brainstorm aspects of the digestive system you might want to include in your attractions. Examples might include organs of the alimentary canal, accessory organs, mastication, peristalsis, enzyme hydrolysis, absorption, and elimination. Some of these features can be further broken down, and there are many other aspects of digestive anatomy and physiology that you may wish to include. From your brainstormed list, decide on ten to 15 aspects that you wish to discuss further.
  • Talk about how each idea you have chosen could become an interesting and tasteful theme park attraction. Select the best ideas to use in the design of your park. Keep in mind that your attractions should be original, creative, and represent a variety of types.
  • Decide how to divide the work. Because conflicting schedules may make it difficult for all the members of the group to get together at the same time, you might want to form subgroups to work on individual attractions outside of class. You can use class time for collaboration and coordination.
  • Design each attraction. Determine how the attraction will teach about the digestive system. The final design portfolio must contain the following:
  • a cover that has the name of the theme park, the names of the design team (alphabetical), and a picture or group of pictures of scenes in the park.
  • an introduction to the theme park, stating its purposes and providing a general overview of the attractions.
  • one or more colored drawings that illustrates each attraction in a clear, detailed manner.
  • a complete description of the attraction, including how it is set up, how it operates, its unique features, and so on.
  • a complete description of whatever aspect of digestive anatomy or physiology is featured in the attraction and how a participant can learn about it from the attraction.

Submit the portfolio pages in a clear plastic slide binder or use a plastic comb binding.

  • Decide on the layout of Gastro World, and construct an approximate scale model showing the entire park. Rules for the model include the following:
  • The model should be large enough to show all the attractions as well as entrances, landscaping, walkways and lanes, parking areas, and so on.
  • Construct all items to approximately the same scale.
  • Make individual attractions large enough so that their structures can be clearly seen.
  • Include aspects of theme parks besides the attractions -- such as trees, benches, pools, fountains, signs, information directories, and ticket and concession booths.
  • If an attraction is inside a structure, the model of the structure should be partially cut away so that the interior can be seen.
  • Use any materials that will make the entire display solid and sturdy enough to be moved around without falling apart. Examples of possible construction materials include Styrofoam, balsa wood, poster board, plastic, metal, glue, ice-cream sticks, straws, foil, beads, craft supplies, paint, clay, and plaster of paris.
  • Commercial products, such as toys, may not be used as park attractions. For example, you may not use a toy roller coaster as a roller coaster in your model. You may use such commercial items as Lego blocks, Tinker Toys, and so on as building materials. They may not represent items in the park, however.
  • The park should be attractive and have interesting and appealing colors, textures, compositions, and shapes.



Lesson Plan Source

Richard Lord ([email protected]]), Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle, Maine



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