Human Body Systems

In 2017, year 3 students in Hong Kong used the Hummingbird to learn about human body systems. This six-week inquiry-based project was designed by Leigh Thomas at Renaissance College using Agency by Design resources from Project Zero of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The purpose of this project was for students to study a body system in detail and create a representation that illustrated the function and importance of that system. Children needed a deep understanding of the body system that they were investigating in order to be able to extrapolate it and represent it in a meaningful way. Many children made connections to other human body systems as they explored their system and represented it. For example, the skeletal system group used the servo motors to show how the ribcage moved and connected this to the breathing in and out of the lungs and the movement of the diaphragm. 

Subjects: 
Grades: 
Standards: 
This project is aligned with Next Generation Science Standard 4-LS1-1, “Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.” It also incorporates Common Core ELA standards in speaking and listening (CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.4, and CCRA.SL.5).
Lesson Procedures: 

This project incorporates several Agency by Design resources from Project Zero of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  1. Prior to beginning the project, select which human body systems you would like your students to focus on. Possible systems include the following:
    • Circulatory System
    • Skeletal System
    • Respiratory System
    • Muscular System
    • Nervous System
  2. Explain the project to students. Each group will choose one of the human body systems and will construct a robotic diorama to represent that body system.
  3. Divide the students into groups of 3 or 4. Allow each group to choose a body system for their project based on their interest.
  4. Provide students with time to research their chosen body system. This is done in the first two weeks of the project with support from the teachers.
  5. Have each group complete the Parts, Purposes, and Complexities thinking routine about their body system. The students can use this step in the process to think deeply about the parts of their system, the purposes of each part, and how they work together to perform a complex function.
  6. Groups should create a sketch of how they plan to represent their body system using a robotic model. 
  7. Groups should complete an initial prototype in 1-2 hours. They then use the Imagine If thinking routine to imagine how they can improve their prototype.
  8. Groups build and program their systems over a period of two weeks. At the beginning of each session, students should reflect on their work from the previous day and plan their next steps. They should document their process, either on paper or in a digital portfolio.

  9. Groups should use the Think, Feel, Care thinking routine regularly throughout the unit to think about one person in their group and reflect on how that person is feeling,what they are thinking, and what they care about. This helps students to think deeply about other children in their group in an empathetic way and alerts you to any subtle social issues that may need to be addressed. 

  10. Once the allotted time for building and programming is complete, each group should present their work to the class and/or the larger school community. 
Objective and Learning Goals: 
  • Students will research their chosen body system to explain its function and purpose.
  • Students will work in a group to design, build, and program a robotic model that represents the body system.
  • Students will present their model to the class and/or parents to explain how their robotic model illustrates the way that the body system functions.
  • Students will explain the importance of their body system and how that system can help them maintain their personal health.