Cullman elementary students craft ‘Robot Fingers’ to study human anatomy

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Cullman City Schools fourth graders create model X-rays and "working" fingers to learn about the human body at East Elementary. (Trent Moore, Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Al. – The human body, an intricate machine, is being explored hands-on by elementary students in Cullman City Schools as they construct model body parts to deepen their understanding. 

As a component of the fourth-grade science curriculum at East Elementary, students are delving into how the various systems of the human body interplay. Using materials like index cards, paper, and yarn, students assembled movable “fingers” to illustrate the cooperation between muscles and tendons. This activity emphasized the coordination between our skeletal and muscular systems. 

Before this, students crafted model X-rays of their hands using construction paper, crayons, and vegetable oil. This project aimed to demonstrate how our nervous system relays commands, prompting bone movement. 

“When we studied how muscles control bone movement, we transitioned to these robot fingers. The finger bone was represented by index card strips, paper for muscles, and yarn mimicking the tendons,” said April Dean, a fourth-grade teacher at East Elementary. “At the end of each lesson, I ask students to share their learnings with someone at home. I believe we have budding surgeons and orthopedists in the mix, along with future engineers, artists, and educators. Our science class caters to all interests.” 

Dean emphasized the students’ enthusiasm for tactile projects like this, acknowledging their efficacy in bringing lessons to life. 

“Such activities ensure that students not only retain the scientific content but can also relate it to other contexts,” Dean noted. “As an educator, my role is to shape enriching learning experiences for my pupils. Our curriculum consistently offers engaging and enjoyable experiences. Coming up, the class will be designing functional models of the human eye using magnifying lenses and index cards.”