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Term Paths

Cynthia Ann Radle

Type of Activity:

  • Group/cooperative learning
  • Simulation

Target Audience:

  • Biology
  • Advanced/AP Biology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

Focus Question:

How can anatomical directions and terms be applied?

Background Information:

notes for teacher:

Locate a copy of the fire evacuation plan for your building. The main hallways can be designated as major blood vessels and the various areas of the school can be the head, chest, abdomen, etc. Complete several pathways using anatomical terms as directions. For example, one of my paths begins, "Ex- ot-, ad- superior, ecto- derm-, peri-frontal, circum- rhino-, " which loosely means, exit the ear, go to the superior region, outside the skin, around the frontal region, around the nose. At the end of each path I leave a clue that lets me know the students actually made it. After the activity is over, all the clues form a sentence.

required of students:

Students must have access to a good list of anatomical prefixes and suffixes.

preparation time needed:

Initially, most of the time is spent deciding on what terms to use to lay out the paths. I made six paths so that a class of twenty four students could rotate through each path separately as a group of four.

class time needed: one hour



Students follow several pathways using anatomical directions on a simulated "body" produced from a copy of a school building's fire evacuation plan.

Materials needed:

  • List of anatomical prefixes and suffixes
  • Six envelopes to hold the clues at the end of each pathway
  • Copy of the simulated "body" made from the evacuation plan
  • Copies of pathways for each group


I altered a copy of the layout by designating various sections as the head, tail, dorsal side, ventral side, nose, ear, abdomen, heart and lungs. I then labeled hallways and entrance doors as major planes or blood vessels and valves. I have included a diagram below for clarity. From that point, it was easy to develop sets of directions to various parts of the "body" using anatomical terms. Students are given six of these directional "Term Paths" to follow.

I introduce the activity by giving the students an example pathway and then show them how to follow a set of these off directions. I also give them a listing of anatomical terms that includes their meanings. Students use this reference to look up the terms and then figure out where the directions lead. At the end of each term path, students find a hidden envelope that has clues in it. The clues are answers to a fill-in-the-blank sentence, again written in coded anatomical terms. This ensures that the students have followed the path correctly and completely.

Once they have completed all six paths and have collected all six clues, they end up with the following message:

1. POLY-Many
2. MEGA-great minds
3. CON-think with
4. CARDIO-their hearts
5. IM--not their
6. CEPHALICheads

Method of Evaluation:

Students are given a copy of the building plan. Each term path is colored coded and drawn in as they complete the path. For example, if pathway one is red, the students will draw numerous connecting red arrows showing where they went throughout the school. Students must also present the six clue cards they collect during the period with appropriate answers (as shown above).


I complete this activity the first or second day before we begin studying anatomy and dissection. The terms used in the simulation are those they use regularly throughout the labs.

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