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Discovery Centre Project Summary

Discovery Centre: The Digestive System Relay


Date: February 4, 2015
Planning
Our group selected from the following three activities:
The Digestive System Relay: Students will use common household items to simulate food
going through the bodys digestive system. Students will each be assigned 1 to 2 tasks to
complete which simulate a specific process of digestion. Then, using the household items
given, they will be asked to simulate and demonstrate that process for their team members.
The relay will finish when the food has finished its journey through the digestive tract.
Fool Your Tongue: To show the connection between the sense of taste and smell, students are
first asked to eat an apple slice. After that they are then given a cotton ball soaked in vanilla
extract to hold under their nose and are then re-asked to eat an apple slice and compare the
difference between the taste of the apple. The experiment simulates the connection between
taste and smell and shows students how we only taste 4 specific tastes, and that the rest of
our taste comes from smell.
Why Does Hot Water Sometimes Feel Cold?: Have students put one hand in hot water, one in
cold water, and then put both hands in room temperature water. It is confusing because one
hand feels hot and one feels cold even though both hands are in the same water. This
experiment works with adaptation and also with the sensory receptor nerve cells which act
very rapidly. When the receptors experience the rapid change in water temperatures, they
overreact and you experience a much more exaggerated and heightened sensation than you
would under normal conditions.
Ultimately we chose The Digestive System Relay because we felt it would be the most
interactive and engaging for the grade 5 students. The relay focuses heavily on kinesthetic
learning and it gets the students moving. We also selected this because we felt it would not only
be the most engaging experiment, but we thought that it had the most understandable message
for the students, and we felt that it was the experiment that they would likely gain the most
knowledge from. We felt they could easily have a personal connection to the process of
digestion, as it is something that they do each day as they eat. We also chose this because many
of our classmates were selecting experiments based on physics or chemistry principles, while
not as many groups focused on biology, so we thought that it would be more interesting for the
students to experience a wide variety of topics from the three realms of science. We did not
select Fool Your Tongue because although it is interesting, logistically it did not fit well with the
time that we had for each group. The experiment itself would only take about a minute to
complete, so it wasnt logical when we were going to see each group of students for around 7-9
minutes. The same logistics were also an issue for Why Does Hot Water Sometimes Feel Cold.
We also eliminated this experiment because we thought it might be too difficult to constantly
be running to get hot water or cold water to carry out the experiment, and we also felt that
some of the students may not want to do this because it does not always feel pleasant having

hands in extreme temperatures, even though we know there is no burning or freezing


occurring, it may not feel that way to the students.
During the planning process, we did not experience many challenges. We found several different
experiments that we were able to modify to carry out, we discussed the benefits of running
each experiment and then ultimately made our decision quite easily. The experiment we chose
was low cost, used easily accessible household materials, and was easy to set up and repeat with
the students.
Description
The Digestive System Relay:
Students will use common household items to simulate food going through the bodys digestive
system. Students will each be assigned 1 to 2 tasks to complete which simulate a specific
process of digestion. Then, using the household items given, they will be asked to simulate and
demonstrate that process for their team members. The relay will finish when the food has
finished its journey through the digestive tract. Below is a description of the activity step-bystep:
Place several skittles in small plastic bags.
Then put these bags of skittles in brown paper bags with crumpled up newspaper.
The paper bag, along with additional crumpled newspaper then gets placed in a larger, thin
plastic bag and tied off. The bag should be easy to rip.
Also set out some large sponges, spray bottles filled with water one will be labelled saliva and
one will be labelled pancreatic juice, and finally a garbage can.
Find an open floor space to complete the relay. You can use masking tape to mark a line on
the floor or two lines if you have enough students and want the groups of students to race.
We had a small group so we only ran one race at a time and timed the students completing
the task.
Depending on the amount of students, they are given 1-2 cue cards each with the name of the
body part on the front, and their scientific job on the back, as well as the task they are to
complete. (See table below) Have students read aloud both their job and task.
Body Part

Job

Task

Molars

Rip up food into tiny


pieces.

Rip open plastic bag and


take out paper bag.

Saliva

Begin the chemical


digestion of food by
moistening food and
breaking it down.

Spray paper bag using


saliva bottle.

Pancreas

Continues chemical
digestion of food by
releasing pancreatic juice
to break down the food.

Spray paper bag using


pancreatic juice bottle.

Body Part

Job

Task

Small Intestine

Absorbs nutritions and


passes them to the blood.

Rip open paper bag and


look for bag of Skittles.

Blood

Distributes nutrients to the


body.

Pass out Skittles to group


members.

Large Intestine

Absorbs excess water


from food particle.

Use sponges to soak up


excess water on the floor.

Rectum

Removes waste from the


body.

Place the remains of the


food particle in the
garbage can.

Students were expected to successfully complete the relay and simulate a food particle passing
through the bodys digestive system. The process has been modified using hands on household
items so that students can visualize what is taking place inside their body each time they eat. To
measure understanding of the process, students were asked to describe the event taking place
and then carry out the relay task. They also worked together to help each other through the
steps. They asked questions for understanding. It was evident whether or not students
understood the process if they were able to carry out their assigned tasks in the process.
The Big Event
Overall, the event went very well! Logistically the timing was excellent, and coincidentally, the
students had just completed a unit on digestion and were quite knowledgable on the subject.
The students were very eager to complete the activity and remained very engaged during the
process. All of the students were eager to participate in the kinesthetic process and were eager
to help each other to complete the relay quickly and efficiently. The students asked a great deal
of questions during the relay about the process of digestion which sparked a lot of conversation
between us and the students. They were also able to make connections to the digestion unit
they recently completed in class.We felt that the relay improved the students knowledge on the
subject because it gave them a hands-on visualization of the digestion process and their
comments and connections during the discovery centre showed their learning.
In general, the activity went quite smoothly and most of it worked very well. We all agreed it
was an activity we would definitely repeat in our own classrooms if the opportunity arose. In
terms of improvements, because of the low number of students we had in each group, we had
to give each student multiple tasks to complete. We found it worked better to have them stop
and we discussed each stage of the relay together, both for understanding and so that each
student would be able to complete the task, therefore we did not place a great emphasis on
timing the students or the race factor of the relay. If we had a larger group of students and
could run two teams of students racing simultaneously then timing or racing would be more
feasible.

As a suggestion, this activity could definitely be adapted to be used for multiple grad levels to
teaching or reviewing digestion. You could easily add more steps of the process and a greater
level of detail to this activity to use it at a jr/senior high level, or you could also make it even
more basic and use it as a demonstration at the elementary school level.
The Quiz
1. What is the first body part involved in the digestion process?
a. Saliva
b. Small intestine
c. Molars
d. Large intestine
Answer: a - Saliva
2. When you were passing out the Skittles, you were mimicking the _____________s job of
distributing nutrients to the body.
a. Pancreas
b. Blood
c. Rectum
d. Large intestine
Answer: b - Blood
3. The pancreas releases a liquid that helps to break down food through chemical digestion.
What is it called?
a. Saliva
b. Water
c. Pancreatic Juice
d. Stomach Acid
Answer: c - Pancreatic Juice
4. The large intestines job is to absorb excess water from the food particle. Which of the
following stages of the relay did the job of the small intestine?
a. Using the sponge to wipe up the floor.
b. Ripping open the plastic bag.
c. Spraying the paper bag with saliva.
d. Putting the remains of the food particle in the garbage can.
Answer: a - Using the sponge to wipe up the floor.
5. When you placed the remains of the food particle in the garbage can, which body parts job
were you doing?
a. Rectum
b. Small intestine
c. Large intestine
d. Blood
Answer: a - Rectum