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Grade 7: Human Body – what do we want to teach?

Posted on Nov 17, 2014 by Nidhi Tiwari | Category: Blog, Science Education | Comments: none

bookI have been thrown into a bit of a quandary since this morning. It all started when I was reviewing a bunch of lessons for grade 7. The topic was “Human Body” and lessons were to cover aspects regarding the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and excretory system. When I started reading through, I was thrown off-gear on a couple of accounts – what are we trying to teach? Where are we trying to reach? What do we ultimately want our students to learn about/from this topic? These questions have been hounding me, to the point that I am hopelessly distracted and stirred from within.

To establish some sense of calm, I asked myself – are there any conceptual errors? Is the format being followed? Any problems with pedagogy? Are the worksheets in place? Any issues with assessments? NO, NO, NO, NO – the answer echoed again and again. Then, why was I still twitchy?

I guess the only reason was – because I was unable to see the spark in the child’s eyes!!! (That child who would endure the implementation of these lesson plans). I guess I kept looking for that spark in each lesson I read through.

But if there were no conceptual or pedagogical errors, why wouldn’t the child’s eyes light up? The answer lied in the fact that I was reading the lesson plans through my teacher’s lens! (The one who taught me a thing or two about the human body and inspired me to study emergency medicine). He was a truly “inspiring” teacher who I can’t forget. Brian was his name. The question is – what made him truly “inspiring”?

I guess he brought the human body alive! He didn’t make the digestive system look like a bunch of facts. The heart was not “only” about the aorta, atrium, ventricle or the pulmonary artery. In every little detail, he was able to instill the “WOW” about the human body. He told us how our digestive system worked tirelessly even though we forgot about that biscuit we munched on the moment it melted in our mouth. He made each vein, artery, muscle, bone, organ seem like they existed only to help us and had been working thanklessly for us. Therefore they deserved if not anything else a silent heartfelt “thank you”. Post his class, most of us were so starry eyed that we headed straight to the library to see pictures of how this stomach really looked (those were pre-internet days folks!) Gory, yet beautiful we thought. The next time one overate, the first thing one thought of was ‘sorry, am hurting you my stomach.’ Brian had successfully established for us a very deep connect with our own body. Not only had he ensured that we knew all about the colon, stomach, gall bladder and liver, but more importantly, he had inspired us to think of the human body like this ‘marvel’ that we had been bestowed with.

I still remember the glee on our faces. And till this date, trust me I firmly believe that the human body is such a wonder!

Hmm. So, getting back to the real world of lesson planning, needlessly to state, the plans I was reading through came nowhere close to Brian’s interpretation of the human body.

In my opinion, what plagues our teaching is indeed the over-emphasis on facts and least focus on the affective domain of learning. Do we expect 7th graders to undertake a detailed study of human anatomy? Do we want them to memorize facts, the names of organs, their location, and their functions or do we want them to develop a sense of marvel, connect, empathy, care and respect for the body?

Take your call. But please don’t forget Brian! The children need more people like him!

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About the Author

Nidhi Tiwari
Nidhi Tiwari
Head – Curriculum Development & Teacher Education
“For me, education is about developing skills for life; it must be contextual and meaningful to make students self-reliant, compassionate and self-driven learners.”
With a background in Outdoor Education and Leadership, Nidhi heads the Curriculum Development and Teacher Education divisions of EI. She brings in the experiential spin to both curriculum and teacher training.

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