Friday, November 22, 2013

Tarsals, Metatarsals, and Phalanges

There are all kinds of fun ways to help students remember things you are learning in school.  Recently we were studying the bones of the human body.  I wanted to get our bone box out, but I remembered it was up in the attic.  “This is too important,” I thought, remembering that we are hoping some of our students will eventually be doctors and nurses on the mission field.  “I’ve got to get those bones,” I decided. 
 I got some of the gentlemen to pull down the folding ladder from the attic.  They passed the bones down as I handed them to them, and didn’t laugh at me when I came down the ladder cradling our full-size cardboard skeleton, “The Bone Guy” in my arms. 

For the next three days we held the bones, examined them,  passed them around, and truly learned about them.  At one point I had two different vertebrae, and I had given one of these to the boys on the right side of the table, and the other to the girls on the left side of the table. “Here,”  I said,  “this is the guy vertebrae and this is the girl vertebrae,” handing each group one of the vertebrae.   I was very confused when one of the students asked me, “How can you tell which vertebrae belonged to a boy cow, and which one belonged to a girl cow?”  I explained what I had meant, and we all had a good laugh.

Now, for the teacher part.

The axial skeleton is the middle part, the skull, spine, and rib bones -- just like the axis, or middle of a globe.  I drew a globe with an axis and then an axial skeleton in my very bad art.  The students are used to my bad art.  They just laugh -- and learn.  Did you know that studies have shown that students learn twice as much if they are enjoying themselves?

Next for the jaw bone, or mandible.  After we passed around our lovely mandible, I drew a fireplace with a mantle.  Then I drew a mandible sitting on the mantle.  Yes, it is corny.  Yes, it is silly.  Yes, it helps them remember.

The leg bones were next.  The femur is easy.  The lower leg bones are harder.  The tibia is the big one, and the fibula is the little one, like when a child tells just a little fib.  Get it?  A fib, a little fib, like the little fibula.  I know, corny.

And the ulna is a little word, and radius is a bigger word.  So, on the forearm, the smaller word is the smaller, thinner bone.

Next, we looked at Mr. Bones, because no one has yet brought me in a scapula, or shoulder blade.  This looks like a spatula, or scraper, which is similar to the word, scapula.  So your shoulder blade looks like a scraper -- right? 
And, the tarsals are the larger ankle bones, the metatarsals, like mini-tarsals, are the the smaller ones, and the smallest ones are the phalanges, or as I call them, the “phalanges fingers,” (or in this case toes).  Likewise the carpals are the big wrist bones, the metacarpals, or mini-carpals, the next smaller ones, and the “phalanges fingers” really are the fingers this time.  And as a nurse friend added, “You drive the car with your carpals.”  We all pointed to the bones on those parts of our bodies as we did this. 

Silly, yes.  Fun, yes.  (They were all laughing and smiling.)  Bad art, yes.  Good test grades, yes.  (They all passed with an honor roll grade.)   Doctors and nurses someday?  Lord willing, I hope.