Human Body 2.0 - Introducing the Project

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Objective

Students will be able to use evidence to explain how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.

Big Idea

How would scientists go about redesigning the human creature in order to get the most efficiency out of him?

Note to Teachers

The Human Body 2.0 project is an engineering design challenge that has students delve deeply into how the human body works.  As the students navigate the project, they will need to analyze the complex human body structure to determine how it functions (CCC Structure and Function*), before proceeding to attempt to redesign a body system. The design challenge itself will require that the students define a problem (SP1), develop and use models (SP2) and design a solution (SP6). 

The students are informed beforehand that they can only access the engineering challenge if they complete the foundational activities (blog posts) and have come up with suggested areas of redesign for each system. 

In previous runs of this project I've had students that dive head first into the redesign without much thought (for example, "We are going to make the brain bigger so you can think faster"), and then became frustrated when challenged to go beyond that simple statement. In order to eliminate this issue, I added the "suggested areas of re-design" sheet to the web activities, and made it mandatory for individuals to gather 30 XP points (24 for the blog and 6 for the suggestions) in each system in order to access the team project.

Individuals who do not achieve this milestone complete the individual project assignment, which is to create a board game. 

Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

Hook

20 minutes

I tell the students that today they have a challenge to start the lesson. They will receive a series of cards, and their job is to organize the cards not only according to levels of organization (like yesterday), but also by the function being described. In order to gain the XP needed to proceed with our lessons, they must complete the sort and write down their data on the accompanying worksheet. (Here's an example of student work.)

I use this sort to emphasize that although the level of organization may differ, there are many similar functions, allowing students to understand that the way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions (CCC Structure and Function: Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used used how their function depends on the shapes, composition and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function), prompting questions about  how structures can be designed to serve a particular function (CCC Structure and Function).

This activity is done collaboratively (SP7) to give students the benefit of engaging in a discussion with their peers (SP8). In the classroom, students can be overheard asking questions and restating concepts as they derive meaning through the interaction.

Introducing the Project

25 minutes

In order to activate prior knowledge, and considering that human body systems are a "staple" in the science classrooms, I hand out the Body Systems-Things I Know sheet and have students think-pair-share (Systems SW 1Systems SW 2) their answers at their tables before a quick whip around the classroom. 

I then ask, "Well, considering that we know all of that, how would scientists go about redesigning the human creature in order to get the most efficiency out of him?" and navigate to the Human Body 2.0 project website.

Part of the "trick" of introducing this project in a memorable way and getting students' buy-in is to read the introduction rather dramatically. I then ask if they ever heard of sports careers that have been riddled with injuries (or even cut short by them). I don't know much about sports, but the students readily share names such as: Tom Brady (knee injury), Charles Barkley (ruptured knee tendon), Kobe Bryant or David Beckham (Achilles heel injuries), John Mackey (football concussion). Once the share winds down, I ask, "Have you ever been prevented from joining a family event or party due to illness or injury?"  I am looking for things like allergies, asthma. Finally I ask, "What are some other things that could be good to have? Perhaps something like 360 degree vision or programmable blood". Followed by some rhetorical questions such as, "Why does our brain have to be inside the cranium, why could it not be closer to the heart and protected by an armor-like ribcage? What would be the benefit of having shorter intestines?" This sort of question is intended to spark curiosity and creativity - engaging students to analyze the systems of the human body to determine how it functions (CCC Structure and Function*), and designing a solution to a problem they identify (SP1).

After this entry event, I ask the students, what are the things that we need to know in order to effectively answer the question, "How would scientists go about redesigning the human creature in order to get the most efficiency out of him?", and have students develop a list of "Need to Knows" cooperatively (SP7).

*Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

The students, who by now have been sitting for quite awhile, are given the authentic opportunity to move around the classroom, as they visit other teams' lists (SW1SW2SW3SW4). The lists of "Need to Knows" remain posted for the rest of the unit. When we develop our list of need to knows, I guide the students to add big questions, this means that instead of writing, "How does the Achilles tendon work", this question would read, "How does the skeletal system work?"

I then discuss the first part of the assignment with the students - "Create a series of blogposts for each of the human body systems". I show the students how to navigate the site, including how to submit their blog posts and suggested areas of redesign for each system. I tell them that these blog posts and suggestions will be the backbone of their project as they will allow them to think about how things work and provide them with many ideas to choose from for their final project. 

Note To Teachers: If your students have not created blogger accounts you might consider visiting the "Enter the Blog" lesson, or you could have them complete the writing posts as a collection of journal entries.

Closure

5 minutes

After answering any questions related to the project, I ask the students to write a two-three sentence post-it where they share with me what excites them about the project and/or what they think might be their biggest challenge.

I use these post-its to help me identify patterns of concern for the students, which tend to be about finishing on time or staying on task. I then address those concerns in individual or small group conversations with the students, where we come up with a plan to make sure that the concern does not become a problem.