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"My joy in learning is partly that it enables me to teach."
- Seneca (1st century) -

By Judith Decherd Jones

Type of Entry:

  • Project

Type of Activity:

  • Hands on
  • Authentic assessment
  • Group/cooperative learning
  • Community outreach/off-site activity

Target Audience:

  • Biology
  • Biology II
  • Anatomy and Physiology

*This activity/project could be modified for use in any subject area.

Notes to Teacher:

You will need to organize students into 12 groups. They will need time to research using many sources. You will need to provide library time and time in the computer lab. For upper level students studying human anatomy and physiology, a trip to a university anatomy lab is a valuable yet optional background activity. Students can view a dissected cadaver and actually hold the various organs. You will need to establish various check points depending on the independence of your students. You must arrange a field trip to a local elementary school in order to present the final products. An excellent addition to this project is to have the groups present their research to their class; you can hold them responsible for organizing and conducting one lab related to their system. The students are then teaching the systems to each other before they produce their books for elementary students.

Required of Students:

Students need to be independent, motivated workers. Students will research their system and work cooperatively to plan and produce a book about their system for elementary students.

Preparation and Class Time:

Background: a day to visit an anatomy lab (3 days including preparation, the visit, and the post discussion), labs, and lessons on difficult concepts may be helpful

Research: variable - providing a few in class days seems to work best, the rest can be done as homework

Group planning: 3 in-class days works well; students produce a "mock-up" at the end of this time

Production: 5 days of in-class preparation time - much of this will be spent working on computers; students critique each other's projects before final production so that errors can be corrected.

Presentation: 1 day for a field trip to an elementary school


Many years ago, I received a small grant to initiate a project that involved my biology students in writing and illustrating children's books about a biological concept. After the books are completed, we bind them and then take a field trip to an elementary class to present them. During the presentation, each of my student groups works with 3-5 elementary students and listens to them read the book, later engaging in discussions with the children based on their questions. This is one of the most successful projects that I have ever undertaken for several reasons. My students learn the concepts extremely well (beyond even my imagination!) because they have to understand advanced concepts well enough to intelligently select and explain ideas to younger students. (As teachers, we know that we learn best when we prepare to teach!) My students are also very motivated by producing an authentic project that can be used by real people. In addition, the project taps into a multitude of skills and allows the students to express some of their creative strengths. Multiple learning styles and heterogeneous groupings are ideal for this project. Students are very diligent about producing a "quality" product that will be used by many and be around for years to come.

Currently, I am using the project in my Biology II class (human biology for juniors and seniors). These students are preparing books about the human body for elementary classes that range from 3rd to 5th grade. Of course as the years have progressed, our books have gone from careful printing or typing to word processing and sometimes graphic arts! We are laminating the covers and back pages and binding them with plastic spirals because these technologies are available at our school for very little cost. When visiting the elementary classroom, my students will take our large torso, our articulated human skeleton, and some microscopes and tissue slides to enhance their teaching.

Perhaps the most gratifying moment comes when I watch my students actually working with the elementary children. My students receive as much as they give. I am convinced that students remember what they have done and very little of what they have heard while ponderously taking notes from an overhead. This project has the great value of increasing their own understanding while involving them in an authentic experience.


Essential learning: High school biology students learn the structures and functions of a body system thoroughly in order to intelligently select and explain the concepts and ideas to younger students in the form of children's books.


Student Handout


During this quarter, you will be researching the human body - anatomy and physiology.

You will be spending several days in the computer lab where you will use a piece of software titled A.D.A.M. Essentials to research the different human systems. You will have many readings assigned from your text. You will see a NOVA video - "The Universe Within."

You will form groups of 2-3 students to research one of the following systems in depth:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Immune
  • Muscular
  • Respiratory
  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Nervous
  • Skeletal
  • Endocrine
  • Lymphatic
  • Reproductive
  • Urinary

You will plan a 1-2 day lesson on your system that you will present to the class. You will be expected to involve the class in an activity or a laboratory experience as part of your lesson plan.

For your final project, you will produce a book about a body system. This book will be one that can be read and enjoyed by an elementary school student. We will take a field trip to an elementary school to deliver these books and interact with the students.

General Description of the BODY BOOK Project

You will work in groups of 2-3 people to prepare a book about the human body that is suitable for a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade student. In order to do this, you will have to research a particular system in detail and then decide what information is appropriate for the elementary book that you are producing. You are responsible for writing AND illustrating the books.

Further Details

  1. The books will be bound with plastic spirals. We will laminate the covers.

  2. Each book will be a volume in a series.

  3. The class will decide on the final "catchy" title for the series. We will vote on the best proposals. Should we have a story theme? Example: "I am Tasha's kidney." Or should we be didactic? Perhaps an alien drops out of the sky and researches these amazing living forms that it finds on earth.

  4. You will be asked to keep a work journal and submit that with your project.

  5. You will be graded BOTH on your individual contribution to the project and on the final outcome. Accuracy, appropriateness, creativity, and neatness will be the major criteria assessed. THIS IS A MAJOR PROJECT!

  6. You need to consider the following questions in your research and in producing your book.

    1. What are the structures in the system that you are researching?

    2. What does each structure contribute to the functioning of the whole system and to the whole body?

    3. What are some of the diseases and disorders associated with the system?

    4. What should a person do to keep the system healthy?

    5. How much information should you put in your book?

    6. What types of illustrations will increase the understanding of the young person who will be reading the book?

    7. How will you present your information in an interesting and engaging way?


  1. Books may be any size. They need one straight edge for binding.

  2. Use your BEST printing and illustrating. Most text should be done on computer; illustrations may be done on computer, also. Adding color to your diagrams and illustrations will enhance your product. DO NOT USE PENCIL, unless you are using colored pencils for the illustrations.

  3. Allow one 1.5" margin so that we can bind the books.

  4. Number the pages of your book when you are done.

  5. Be sure to have a title page that is exciting and alluring!

  6. Include a bibliography at the end. You should use your textbook and 4 other sources, including journals.

  7. Include an "About the Authors" page. You will describe yourselves, your interests and your goals. We can scan photographs for including on this page.


  • sign up with your group for your system

  • research outline

  • mock-up

  • critiques of your project done by 2 other groups

  • Journal of your individual process

  • final product due

  • group members evaluation of themselves and each other

  • reflection on project

The books will be evaluated for:

accuracy- 40 points
appropriateness- 20 points
completeness- 10 points
creativity- 10 points
neatness- 10 points
individual participation- 10 points

Reflection on Body Book Project


  1. How much did you learn about the system you were researching? Do you think that you learned as much this way as by other methods?

  2. Generally, what were your feelings about how the group process worked? Do you think that you worked efficiently? Did you enjoy working together? Would you work with the same group again?

  3. How did you feel about the day at the elementary school? Was it satisfying to work with the young students? Did you enjoy being with them? Do you think that they enjoyed being with you? Do you think that they learned something from you?

  4. Would you design your book the same way if you had it to do over again? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?

  5. Should we plan a project like this next year? Explain your answer. If you say "no" then tell us why not. If you say "yes" then tell us why.

  6. If we do this project next year, what should we change and what should we keep the same?

  7. Would this be a good project for 9th grade biology students? Why or why not?

  8. In conclusion, what are the most memorable things that you learned from this project. You can include all of the preparation and work that went into the product or the knowledge of the system or working with the elementary students. The door is wide open. You are choosing the MOST IMPORTANT things that you learned whether academic or personal.

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