4 Best High School Anatomy and Physiology Activities Recommended by Actual Teachers
Teaching anatomy and physiology seems pretty straightforward. Give a lecture on the basics of a body system, the parts of the system, how it works, and how it interacts with the other body systems.
Sounds simple, right? But even though the content is straightforward, a cut-and-dry lecture isn’t enough for a high school classroom.
High school students need hands-on activities to help them remember important details and stay engaged with your lessons.
You could come up with your own activities, but that takes a lot of time, and you never know how a new activity will go in the classroom.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top four high school anatomy and physiology activity ideas recommended by health science instructors in our community!
1. Build a Skeleton (Jody Wickett)
Body System: Skeletal System
Jody Wickett, health science teacher in Washington
This activity is a great way to reinforce the basics of the skeletal system.
- Skeletal system worksheet
- Scissors (one pair per student)
- Brass fasteners
Download the skeletal system worksheet and print enough for each student to have one. Also, be sure you have enough scissors for everyone to have their own along with plenty of fasteners so you won’t run out!
Pass out the worksheets and scissors while instructing students to cut out the bones. Hold off on passing out the fasteners until most students are done cutting out the bones (to keep everyone at the same pace).
Once most students are almost done, pass out the fasteners.
Then, instruct them to use the fasteners like joints to connect the bones and build their skeleton.
If your students have a firm grasp of the skeletal system, this construction will be a breeze. If anyone has trouble figuring out which bone goes where, you’ll know it’s time for an extra review of the basics!
For a more detailed version of this activity, you can add an extra step of requiring student to label the bones on their skeleton. To give them more direction, provide a list of bones they are expected to label.
2. Hokey Pokey with Bone Names (Kathy Regan)
Body System: Skeletal System
Kathy Regan, health science instructor in Massachusetts
Kathy Regan of Assabet Valley Career and Technical High School shared another skeletal system activity for the classroom.
“I play Hokey Pokey with names of bones. It’s really silly. I’ll say a bone like ‘coccyx’ and they put their back side in and out and shake. It’s kind of juvenile, but at the end of a long day the students get a chuckle out of it.”
This is a more in-depth reinforcement of the skeletal system. Your students will need to have most bone names down pat before you do this game.
Here's a quick peek at how Kathy runs this game in her classroom:
Talk about an easy activity to put together -- the only prep you need is your knowledge of bone names!
Start by having everyone in the class stand up. Depending on how your room is set up, you may need to rearrange some of the furniture to ensure everyone has enough room to participate.
Once ready, gather everyone in a circle and announce you’ll be playing Hokey Pokey to test everyone’s knowledge of the skeletal system.
Then jump right in and start naming off bones as everyone dances. It’s good to start with some of the more well-known bones and then progress to some of the trickier ones.
In general, this activity is a great way to end the day’s lesson to reinforce your student’s knowledge of the skeletal system.
To get your students even more involved, designate a student to lead. After a few rounds, pick a new student to be the leader.
This could make the game even more fun as students try to think of bone names on the fly!
3. “Simon Says” with ROM Movements (Vicki Lyle)
Body System: Muscular System
Vicki Lyle, health science instructor in Alabama
Looking for another fun and effective classroom activity that gets students up and moving? Vicki Lyle at Jasper High School loves playing “Simon Says” to reinforce different ranges of motion (ROM movements) made by muscles.
“Use the vocabulary words that you want to reinforce and call them out. It’s fun and gets them out of their seats to learn. Sometimes a prize may be involved!”
This activity reinforces the different types of body movements made by skeletal muscles, which makes it great to wrap up lessons on the skeleton and muscles.
You could even use it to help students remember information before a test!
- Vocabulary list
Start by compiling a list of the ROM movements and vocabulary you want to reinforce. Use types of body movements made by skeletal muscles and the name of the body part students should move.
Make sure you vary the ROM movements and include each of these at least once in combination with different muscles and body parts:
Before starting, you’ll need to decide to end the game after a certain length of time or until only one student is left standing.
In addition, make sure everyone knows how to play the game. Use an example such as “Simon Says clap one time” to go over the rules before you jump into using the ROM movements.
Once everyone is on the same page about how the game works, start calling out directions from your list! You can mix it up by saying “Simon Says” before some actions, but not before others.
If anyone makes a mistake, they are out of the game.
Continue until you have one student left standing or until your designated time limit is up!
One variation of this activity is to pick a student leader.
Keep in mind you should only choose a student to lead the game if you are confident they will correctly say the ROM movements and body parts.
4. Activities from Anatomy Arcade (Donna Barata)
Body Systems: Multiple
Donna Barata, health science teacher in California
If you’re interested in using interactive online games to reinforce your students’ knowledge of body systems, Donna Barata has a favorite website just for that!
“There are great video games on the Anatomy Arcade website. I love Whack-a-Bone and Poke-a-Muscle!”
Anatomy Arcade has a variety of games and activities for general anatomy and physiology, plus eight specific body systems:
Each game has a difficulty rating that indicates how much knowledge a student needs to successfully complete the activity. This rating system is excellent for helping you decide where to include the activities in your syllabus planning.
In addition, the games also show how they could be used to fill class time. Some are made to be used as an in-between activity, while others could fill a good portion of a lesson.
What’s great about these games is their flexibility. As long as your students have Internet access, they can review any body system from this website -- in class or at home!
What Anatomy and Physiology Activities Do You Use?
What activities do you use to help your students learn about the body systems?
We’ve shared four ideas, but are there any you’d add to the list?
Share your thoughts in the AES Educator Community!