Troy students take a hands-on approach to learning anatomy

CUTLINE: Troy High School senior Olivia Johnston, a student in Paige Davis' anatomy/physiology class, works on a rotator cuff muscle while using the "Anatomy in Clay" learning system. This system allows students to learn through hands-on experiences.

TROY –Some concepts are so complex that the best way to learn them is the hands-on approach.

The students in Page Davis’ anatomy and physiology classes at Troy High School have the opportunity to get an up close and personal – as well as three-dimensional – look at how the human body and all of its internal systems work, thanks in part to the “Anatomy in Clay” learning system.

The “Anatomy in Clay” learning system includes MANIKENs (plastic skeletons around which the clay is formed), clay, tools and reference materials for two full anatomy sections.

“’The mind cannot forget what the hands have learned.’ This is the slogan for Anatomy in Clay,” Davis said. “In a learning system of rote memorization, muscle actions such as abduction, flexion, etc. have little context, therefore are less relevant to students and become harder to learn and understand. Instead, by interacting in a hands-on fashion with the MANIKIN, students can make inferences linking anatomical structures with their functions.

“Students can use these to learn about many body systems, including making nerves (with yellow clay), arteries (red), veins (blue), lymph vessels and nodes (green), et cetera. We can also model organs prior to dissecting them to improve the experience. There are 7 colors of clay for these purposes. The clay lasts 10-15 years without drying out.”

Davis and THS Science Department Chair first saw “Anatomy in Clay” four years ago at a conference, and have been working diligently since then to bring them to Troy High School.

“The desire for obtaining this system came about in November 2019 when several of us, including me and Jason Orsborne, attended the National Science Teaching Association Conference in Cincinnati,” Davis said. “I attended a hands-on workshop where we built the rotator cuff muscles that I had my students begin with this week. Jason saw the booth in the vendor hall. We agreed we had to have it!”

The “Anatomy in Clay” system came with a hefty price tag, but thanks to a grant from the Miami County Foundation, students will be able to use it this year and for years to come.

“This was a Miami County Foundation grant in the amount of $9,500,” Davis said. “It covered purchasing the complete system for two full anatomy sections, which will accommodate up to 48 students. Jason and I began writing this grant in June 2020 when it was clear we would not have district funds to purchase it. Getting it to the right organization took time, but we shot for the stars and landed in the Andromeda Galaxy!”

Davis said MANIKENs have been a big hit with students in her two anatomy and physiology classes.

“The students are very excited and fully engaged,” she said. “They are not anxious for the class period to end! Most feel it will help them learn anatomy more effectively.”