First-Place Winners: TMA Excellence in Science Teaching
Sue Rolf and Jean Ann Keen - Dunbar Primary, Lufkin,
Is There a Doctor in the House? - Bring In A Specialist
This multifaceted lesson plan is designed primarily for first-
and second-grade students, but it can be adapted for use in any
elementary grade. Although the time frame for the project is
nine weeks, it can vary depending on how in-depth the class
would like to experience the study. The children participate
in this science lesson that goes way beyond 'playing doctor' as
they investigate the roles of many specialists in the area of
medical science and integrate this learning with knowledge of the
parts and functions of the human body. Under the guidance of
a dermatologist, the class then delves into a three- to six-month
original research project dealing with moles as related to melanoma
and sunburn and changes in mole counts. This component of the
project includes some valuable family involvement. Having
been inspired by the whole-group research project, the students
then choose their own topics related to the human body and do
authentic independent research in small cooperative groups.
All information that has been learned is then presented as the
class opens its doors to the other classes on campus, the school
administration, the community, and the parents for a highly
creative culminating experience - the
Mini Medical Museum.
Upon completion of this project the student will be able to:
Become familiar with higher level science vocabulary;
Be aware of career choices in the world of medicine;
Define the roles of specialists in the medical
Research scientific information using books, articles, and
Identify parts and functions of the human body;
- Choose a topic to research;
- Set individual goals;
- Organize research;
- Construct creative products for research presentation;
- Compare and contrast information;
- Integrate science and math in calculations about moles on the
- Predict outcomes of research;
- Analyze data and construct a class graph;
- Work cooperatively in a small group setting;
- Understand the prevention aspect of medicine;
- Document references; and
- Continue ongoing research projects independently.
Science books and children's literature,
Internet search engines,
Large chart paper for recording data on graphs and charts,
Bulletin board paper for transforming the classroom into a
Mini Medical Museum
Methods of Implementation
of the project begins as the children study body parts from the
tip of their toes to the top of their heads.
The class learns from informational literature, science
books, Internet search engines, and even fact/fantasy books such as
The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body
by Joanna Cole (ISBN 0 590-41427-5). In conjunction with the
study of each part of the body, a doctor specialist visits the
class as guest speaker/consultant. The students learn a
medical vocabulary that goes above and beyond the ordinary, and
they are inspired by this glimpse of career choices that
include podiatrist, orthopedic surgeon, pulmonary specialist,
cardiologist, anesthesiologist, neurosurgeon, ophthalmologist, and
of the lesson takes learning to higher levels as the class becomes
involved in a whole-class research project in the area of
dermatology. Our class worked hand-in-hand with dermatologist,
Matthew Rowley, MD, who helped our class design this original
USING FOREARM MOLE COUNTS TO ESTIMATE TOTAL NUMBER OF
- Student counts moles on each forearm (wrist to elbow) at
school and chart their location on a diagram for student and
parents to keep
- At home, student and parents count moles on entire body (head
to toe, including scalp), and chart their location on a diagram
for student and parents to keep.
- Students divide their total body mole counts by their forearm
counts. That number will be the student's "forearm mole
- Class graphs on a two-axis graph each student's forearm mole
factor, listed alphabetically by last name.
- Class calculates the average number of forearm moles and the
average total number of moles.
- Class divides the average total body mole count by the
average forearm mole count. That number will be the class
average forearm mole factor.
- Class determines how many students' forearm mole factors are
- Class tries to answer the question, "Is the forearm mole
count a reasonable way to estimate a person's total body mole
MOLE COUNTS AND THE REALTIONSHIP TO MELANOMA AND SUNBURN
Student investigates family history of melanoma. Immediate
family is sibling or parent. Close family history is grandparent or
aunt/uncle, and distant family history is cousin or
- Student grades family history: Immediate family history
(4), close family history (3), distant family history (2), and no
family history (1). Use only the highest number as the
student's family history factor.
- Student and parents estimate the total number of sunburns
received so far and write down a single number.
- Dr. Rowley determines student's Fitzpatrick skin type.
An example is skin type II: burns easily, tans with
effort. Skin types are I-IV and will be assigned a
numerical value in descending order (skin type I = 4).
- Class calculates class averages for family history grade,
number of sunburns, and skin type.
- Student recalls his or her total body mole count.
- Class recalls the class average total mole count.
- Student uses bar graph to compare his or her mole count,
family history grade, number of sunburns, and skin type with
- Students divide their total body mole counts by their forearm
- Class discusses relationship of mole count to family history
of melanoma, sunburns, and skin type.
MOLE COUNT CHANGES DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
- Students recount forearm moles and document locations of new
moles on diagram.
- Student and parent recount moles on whole body and document
locations of new moles on diagram.
- Class calculates the total increase in moles for the
- Class discusses the increase in number of moles with Dr.
The students then use the model for doing authentic research to
extend to the
of the lesson, doing small-group independent research. Yes,
first- and second-graders can do authentic research and have a ball
doing it when it is presented in a nonthreatening way. The
children work cooperatively in small heterogeneous groups to choose
a research topic, set goals, gather facts, organize information,
document references, and present the findings to others through
creative products (such as a model, artwork, display board, survey,
diorama, skit, PowerPoint presentation, demonstration, creative
writing, mobile or experiment).
of the project finds the students presenting the products of their
research in a Mini Medical Museum. The classroom is
transformed into a science fair of sorts, with each small group of
researchers setting up a station to display its findings and
original products. Students design an over-the-door entrance
display similar to the human mouth entrance at the John P. McGovern
Museum of Health and Medical Science in Houston. The children
wear surgical scrubs as costumes to add to the excitement of the
activity. The room becomes a living museum where the students
eagerly assume the roles of teachers. This is perhaps the
part of the project where the most learning takes place! The
following is a suggested scenario of how the museum centers
look and a few examples:
Foot (Podiatry) Exhibit
- Children set up shoe store with all types and sizes of shoes,
foot measurement devices, inserts for shoes, Foot Facts display
board, child-made graph of children's foot sizes, X-rays of
feet, collection of creative writing stories that group
members have written about feet, Foot Care chart, etc.
Bones (Orthopedics) Exhibit -
X-rays of healthy bones and broken bones displayed on the windows,
a collection of crutches, leg braces, and casts for children to
sign. Information about skeletons on presentation boards. A
taste test survey on different kinds of milk and other high calcium
foods. Real owl pellets to dissect and reconstruct the tiny
bones of the birds' prey using a bone guide.
Heart (Cardiology) Exhibit
board using children's artwork to teach the five preventable risk
factors that cause heart and brain attack: Weight, Activity,
Tobacco, Cholesterol, and High blood pressure. Toilet paper/paper
towel roll stethoscopes and stopwatches for participants to check
their heart rates before and after jogging in place. Favorite
heart-healthy snacks can be graphed. Of course, a cow heart in a
jar would be interesting for the brave at
Lungs (Respiratory) Exhibit
- Children set up an antismoking campaign with X-ed out cigarette
ads. A model of balloon and drinking straw lungs can
demonstrate how the lungs function. Children draw conclusions
about the dangers of tobacco.
Brain (Neurology) Exhibit -
Brainteasers, optical illusions, and Mensa games. Brain
sculptures made from Sculpy II. Diagrams of different animal
brains can be used for comparing and contrasting brain
Eyes (Ophthalmology) Exhibit
- Eye tests on the walls in the center to test vision, depth
perception, color blindness, and field of vision. A vast
array of eyeglasses and a mirror on display. Researched
information on the eye shown on eye mobiles.
Anesthesiology Exhibit -
A mock surgery suite for role-playing, with real and child- created
equipment (such as breathing bag and tube) and the board game
Operation. Journals about surgery experiences are
- A pediatrician's office complete with details such as baby dolls,
stethoscopes, and tongue depressors. Facts about childhood
illnesses shown in a PowerPoint presentation. Children can
graph data on the number of classmates who have had measles,
chicken pox, and other childhood diseases.
The culminating experience for the project is a Saturday
family field trip to the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and
Medical Science in Houston, where the children can extend their
knowledge of the human body and
what they have learned during the comprehensive learning
Students are evaluated through written science journals that
record scientific findings, raise questions, and express thoughts
and feelings about the whole class medical project. Students
receive a participation grade on the whole-class research project
on moles, and a grade for their ability to work cooperatively
in a group setting. Students also have the opportunity to
evaluate themselves on the quality of the group work. A grade
is given on the independent research project based on points earned
on the following rubric:
- Sets research goals and meets them on a planning sheet - 10
- Research findings and conclusions are presented in written
form - 20 points,
- Organization of the research - 10 points,
- Product originality - 20 points,
- Neatness of product - 10 points,
- Presentation of product (verbal skills) - 20 points, and
- Sites at least three references for the research (one can be
Internet) - 10 points.
This lesson grabs the attention of the students at the onset of
the project and keeps them motivated through its duration.
The lesson is just as meaningful to the children as it is
fun. Children are naturally interested in their bodies, so
this project meets them at the center of their world. Any
time that students are allowed to make some choices in their
studies, their hearts and minds are captured. The project
enables the children to take some responsibility for their own
learning and allows them to soar to unbelievable educational
heights. The project is full of high-energy learning
activities that take into consideration individual learning styles
and integrate many academic subjects across the curriculum.
Hands-on projects like this one not only thrill young learners but
also inspire them to continue the learning process on their
own. The children are actively engaged in highly creative
endeavors that challenge and make them fall in love with
science. We think the key to the project's overwhelming
success lies in the fact that the students take on the role of
teachers and actually teach what they have learned through their
research to peers, parents, and the community. We are convinced
that these students learn more from this project than they can
learn from a year of textbook study or teacher lectures.
TMA Excellence in Science Teaching Awards -