4 Best High School Anatomy and Physiology Activities (Recommended by Teachers)
As a CTE curriculum developer, we speak with thousands of health science teachers every year.
In speaking with these teachers, they’re often looking for new, engaging activities for topics students struggle with -- especially those related to anatomy and physiology.
While thousands of teachers use our HealthCenter21 curriculum to teach Anatomy and Physiology topics, they are always looking for new ways to mix it up with other activities!
To help you keep your students engaged when discussing such detailed information, we asked teachers in our community for their best ideas.
Four of the best anatomy and physiology activities recommended by health science teachers are:
- Build a Skeleton
- Hokey Pokey
- Simon Says
- Anatomy Arcade
In this post, we’ll explain how you can implement each of these activities in your classroom.
You’ll also find a free anatomy and physiology lesson that you can implement in minutes!
1. Build a Skeleton
Jody Wickett is a health science teacher in Washington who has taught a variety of courses in her program.
One of her favorite hands-on activities for her Anatomy and Physiology class involves having students build an articulated skeleton.
Depending on your course structure, this activity can either be used to introduce your skeletal system unit or as a way to reinforce what your students have already learned.
So, how do you implement this activity in your unit on the skeletal system?
- Skeletal system worksheet
- Scissors (one pair per student)
- Brass fasteners
When prepping for this activity, start by downloading a skeletal system worksheet and print one for each student. (You may want to print a few extra just in case someone has a mishap and cuts into one of the pieces.)
You’ll also want to have enough scissors and fasteners for every student to complete the activity without having to wait for another student.
Pass out the worksheets and scissors and instruct your students to cut out the bones. We recommend waiting to pass out the fasteners until most students are done cutting out their pieces in order to keep everyone at the same pace.
When you pass out the fasteners, instruct your students to use them like joints to connect the bones and build their skeleton.
If your students have a good understanding of where the major bones are located, this should go fairly quickly.
If any students have trouble figuring out where any piece goes, you may want to consider reviewing the basics after the activity is over.
Optional Adjustment for Advanced Students:
If you want to make this activity more in-depth, add an extra step of requiring students to label the bones on their skeleton. To give them an idea of what you expect, it may be a good idea to provide a list of bones they should label.
If you’re looking for a simple activity that covers the basics of the skeletal system, this build-a-skeleton activity could be a great addition to your classroom.
2. Hokey Pokey with Bone Names
Kathy Regan of Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School finds that the most engaging anatomy and physiology activities get students out of their seats.
One of her students’ favorites is playing Hokey Pokey with the names of bones.
“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.”
It’s a great activity to give an in-depth reinforcement of the skeletal system once your students have a good awareness of most bone names.
Here’s a quick peek at how Kathy runs this activity in her classroom:
So, how can you use the Hokey Pokey as an effective anatomy and physiology activity?
While Hokey Pokey is traditionally done in a circle, your students don’t need to be organized into one as long as they have enough room to move around.
If it seems your students won’t have enough room, you may need to rearrange some of the furniture.
Begin by having students stand up and asking if everyone knows the basic premise of how the Hokey Pokey works. While most students will understand what to do, it’s possible one or two may not.
Once you’re confident your students all understand how to participate, it’s time to get started!
You can pick and choose any bone name you like to see if your students remember where they are located. It’s good to start with some of the most well-known bone names before progressing into the trickier ones.
Optional Adjustments for More Engagement:
If your students really enjoy this activity, consider using it as a way to end your class period on a regular basis (such as every Friday).
To mix it up, designate a different student to lead each time. This adds a bit of extra fun as the student leader tries to think of bone names on the fly!
Overall, if you want an interactive activity that can be used to reinforce information on any given day, Hokey Pokey is a great way to do just that.
3. “Simon Says” with ROM Movements
Vicki Lyle is a health science instructor in Alabama who loves to get her students up and moving.
She especially enjoys using Simon Says to help reinforce the different ranges of motion (ROM movements) made by muscles.
This activity is a great way to wrap up your muscular system unit and could even be used to help with last-minute reviews before a test.
So, how does Vicki recommend implementing this activity?
- Vocabulary list
Begin by compiling a list of the ROM movements and muscular system vocabulary you want to reinforce.
This should include types of body movements made by skeletal muscles and the names of body parts students will move.
Before starting this activity, make sure you lay the ground rules so everyone understands how to play.
Here are a few pointers:
- This is a competitive game that ends with one student left standing (or until the time is up).
- If you give a command and say “Simon Says” before it, everyone should follow your instructions.
- If you don’t say “Simon Says,” but a student completes the action they are ‘out’ and should sit down for the remainder of the game.
You may want to do a few examples before officially starting to ensure everyone understands.
Then it’s time to start calling out directions from your list!
Be sure to vary the ROM movements and include each one in combination with different muscles and body parts.
Continue to throw out combinations until one student is left standing -- they are considered the winner!
If you need a fun, interactive activity that ties in with the muscular system, Simon Says could be a great addition to your plans.
4. Activities from Anatomy Arcade
Donna Barata, a medical assisting teacher in California, likes to mix up her anatomy and physiology lessons by using interactive, online games.
Her favorite website is Anatomy Arcade, which includes dozens of games and activities related to:
- General anatomy and physiology
- Skeletal system
- Articular system
- Muscular system
- Circulatory system
- Respiratory system
- Nervous system
- Digestive system
- Endocrine system
Each game has a difficulty rating that indicates how much knowledge a student needs in order to successfully complete it. This rating system is great for helping you decide when to include these activities in your syllabus.
Of all of the activities on the site, Donna has two favorites: Whack-a-Bone and Poke-a-Muscle.
The Whack-a-Bone game focuses on the major bones of the body and is a great way to reinforce what your students have previously learned.
The game is easy to learn and involves searching for and clicking the correct location of each bone named in the level.
Poke-a-Muscle helps students learn about the major superficial muscles of the body.
It involves using an “x-ray scanner” to locate the correct muscle and then ‘poke’ it by clicking your mouse.
Though the instructions are simple, this game will really test your students’ knowledge of the muscular system!
Overall, the games and activities from Anatomy Arcade provide the most flexibility and variety on our list.
So, if you’re interested in trying digital anatomy and physiology activities, this option could be a great supplement to your lessons!
Which Anatomy and Physiology Activity is Right for You?
At the end of the day, any of these activities could make a great addition to your health science classes.
Each option can help supplement your existing curriculum, plus you can adapt them to better fit your exact needs!
However, if you’re like most CTE health science instructors, you likely teach more than just anatomy and physiology.
Teach Hundreds of Healthcare Concepts and Skills to Your Students
If you teach anatomy and physiology among other concepts and skills, consider checking out our digital curriculum HealthCenter21.
HealthCenter21 includes more than 650 hours of curriculum to teach healthcare concepts and skills in a variety of CTE courses.
Because of the versatility of the system, teachers like you use HealthCenter21 to introduce the basics, teach hands-on skills, and prepare students for their future careers.
Overall, HealthCenter21 helps you save time with planning and grading so you can spend more quality time helping your students succeed.
“The information in HealthCenter21 is always up to date. It’s easy to set up a course and it allows me to focus more on the hands-on and interactive lessons in my courses.”
Erwin Technical College, FL
To see what types of resources are available within HealthCenter21, download a free sample lesson from the Anatomy and Physiology module.
This lesson presentation helps you introduce the basics of anatomy and physiology, including cells, tissues, organs, and systems.
Click below to download your free anatomy and physiology lesson now!