For many, study of the human body starts in second grade with an introduction to what’s inside that stretchy, durable skin that coats our bodies. As students progress through school, they dig deeper into concepts of body systems, organs, cells, diseases, and the importance of good health. Whether schools classify these topics as ‘health’ or ‘science’, the importance of understanding the processes that allow us to survive can’t be overstated. Prove this by asking students for personal examples of health problems that upended their lives. For some, it’s as normal as a broken arm, but for many more, it ends in hospitalizations and orphan diseases.
When teaching about the human body, start with a tool students are familiar with: the fill-in-the-blank worksheet. I see you roll your eyes, but bear with me as I drag this tried-and-true stalwart into the 21st Century. There are good reasons why worksheets have been the backbone of assessment for decades:
- Students write or type the information (and get the benefits of note-taking).
- Students read what they type (and get the benefits of reading).
This lesson plan, though, adds a few digital native twists. First, students create their own template in one of several ways:
- draw it using the school’s drawing tool
- take a picture of themselves with the iPad camera (or another digital camera)
- use an avatar that has basically human parts (like a robot). This has the advantage of tying into class discussions on digital citizenship (why use avatars rather than the real picture?).
Next, students digitally label their ‘human body’. To do this, you might need to review the digital drawing tool (like Doodle Buddy or ScreenChomp), image editor (like Canva or PicMonkey), and/or the annotation tool (like iAnnotate or Notability) being used. Besides learning about their bodies, this integrates technology transparently into student learning, as a process rather than a product — as a tool used to complete their project.
When students finish this project, as they’re waiting on classmates, provide them with this list of sixteen sites on the human body. Note: These are for mixed age groups so preview them first and select those that work for your students:
BrainPOP’s Human Body video provides a three-minute overview of the human body for grades 3 and up. Once students finish watching, they can play topical games, dig deeper with more videos, make a learning map, review domain-specific words, and/or assess their learning. There are also lots of teacher resources to help in using this unit such as lesson plans, training, and academic standards met.
BrainPOP Jr teaches K-2 students about a wide variety of topics in an age-appropriate way that makes learning fun. Here, you’ll find lots of human body-themed games like Bones, Heart, and Senses. Click the link and scroll through the section on ‘Health’ until you find the game you want,
Build-A-Body is a drag and drop game where middle school and high school students are tasked with assembling an organ system from a provided set of organs and from there, assemble the entire body. Once this is mastered, students attempt to link a health problem to the organ affected. Another similar build-a-body website is
A similar build-a-body website is Body Parts from the Smithsonian. An easier version — and well-suited to elementary age students — is Find My Body Parts. Two great iPad apps are DIY Human Body and Arloon Anatomy.
Code Fred (from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry) is a virtual adventure game where Fred, who’s out for an evening jog, is threatened by a dire wolf. You must save his life by activating the correct human body response to allow his escape. The introduction — “Fred’s body is a complex system built for everyday survival, but this is no ordinary day” — says it all. The toon-y graphics, appropriate sound affects (like heavy breathing) and well-chosen music immerse players in the drama. Action starts out almost boring (who hasn’t been chased by a wolf?), but quickly ramps up to fairly challenging levels as Fred struggles to escape the tenacious predator and a hostile environment.
This site is a great collection of kid-oriented videos explaining how different parts of the human body work. Videos include a wide selection on body parts and systems to health, eating right, illnesses, injuries, and more. Each is three-five minutes and aimed at elementary age students. Included also are quizzes, Q&A, games, and activities. Resources can be selected based on age group or parent and vary depending upon which group is selected. For example, ‘Teen’s’ includes topics for drinking and finding a job.
Lifesaver is an interactive adventure where players are faced with the challenge of what they would do if a friend passed out for no reason. Each step of the way, students are asked to make life-and-death decisions about what they would do to save his life. To make it even more challenging, you must make your decisions quickly.
Another great life-saving simulation site is Heart attack—rescue simulation. You are happily having a cup of coffee in a busy mall and a person collapses in front of you. What do you do?
Scholastic Study Jam provides a brief but thorough lesson on the human body including a slideshow (captioned, annotated images set into a slideshow format), self-quiz, and extensions for those who want to dig deeper. Topics are differentiated into categories for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and librarians.
This is a body part video like you’ve never seen before. This seven-minute 3-D animation includes dramatic classical sound track to augment the detailed narration to show how sound affects different parts of the ear. Because of the maturity of the narration, it is best suited to middle or high school.
Curate this list of resources to the class website and then let students self-select the ones that interest them. This is a great activity to fill in time between class activities, before lunch, or while waiting for classmates to finish a project.
A note: Links die. If you click one of the links above, it’s probably because it is no longer supported. Try a different one.
More on human body
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.