“I’ve been excited for this class since last year,” remarks Malia L. ’23 as she walks into 12th Grade Human Biology. “I heard from last year’s seniors that this was one of the most fun projects we would be doing, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like.”
In the second unit of Human Biology, students are introduced to autopsies, surgery, and suturing. They not only learn anatomical language and vocabulary (rectus abdominis, anyone?), they also study the role of the medical examiner in conducting an autopsy of patients who have died. They observe how the understanding of anatomy and physiology can help determine the cause of death. Students learn about common surgeries that are done in a hospital and why they are necessary. Observation, deduction, imaginative diagnostics, and problem solving are all rolled up into this exciting and—as it turns out—very fun class.
Using a patient model in the form of a rubber mat, students conduct four surgeries on their patient to practice using surgical and dissecting tools, as well as to learn some basic surgical techniques. The students conduct an appendectomy, removal of a knee cap, a cesarean section, and open heart surgery.
Following this activity, students practice making a continuous suture and an interrupted suture on a banana, using scissors, forceps, and suturing thread and needle. This gives students the feel for what it is like to suture on real tissue compared to a model.
The final project for this unit is conducting an autopsy on a pig. Students work in teams of three, with each team having one person who is “all in” with dissection and suturing, while others take notes and gather data, or await their turn to play the role of medical examiner.