Anatomy and Physiology Labs in the Distance Learning Environment

Anatomy and Physiology students completed several virtual labs recently, along with an engaging scavenger hunt quiz. The quiz was focused on the endocrine system, and it encouraged students to get up and moving while exploring their home environment to make connections to structures studied within the system. For example, students were asked to exercise for 10 minutestake a walk, play with the family petand then quizzed on how the exercise affects the function of several structures in the endocrine system.

Upper School Science Teacher and Head Athletic Trainer Stacey Morgan said that her goal is always to make lessons applicable to the real world and to have her students make connections between the new information and previously learned systems and to themselves. Morgan shared, “In science, labs are often how we can do this but with virtual learning, we have had to adapt the lab work. I have actually continued to do labs that I would do in class, only in a virtual learning environment in some cases.”

For example, with the “hidden sugars lab,” students would have normally tested glucose levels in a variety of products using glucose strips. For the distance learning version, students kept track of their diets on an app, and they explored sugar content in the products used. They then explored real-world situationsi.e. diabetes and pre-game meals for athletesand evaluated the impact the blood sugar level has on the body in each of the scenarios.

In the “blood pressure lab” after lessons on heart anatomy, the cardiac cycle and blood pressure, students explored deeper with a virtual activity. Morgan explained, “Students had virtual patients of various genders and ages and their measured blood pressures. For any patient determined to have high blood pressure, they could open the patient chart to explore what factors contributed to their hypertension. Later in the lab, they were given three patients and their vital signs. They first had to determine the normal ranges for these vital signs and then had to decide which patient was in the most serious condition.

Most recently, students completed a “cardiovascular diagnostic lab.” Students interacted virtually with three patients. They are able to see the patients’ medical charts and pedigree charts to determine if a condition is hereditary, and they have access to ultrasounds, MRIs and heart sounds. Students collaborate in small groups to diagnose each patent’s condition and select one of six medical technologies to treat the disorder.

Estephanie Estrada ’21 reflected on her virtual lab experiences thus far. “I have enjoyed these labs during this new normal! I love how they are super engaging, and at the same time, I am learning about new things. I feel like a legitimate doctor when I do these labs, which is exciting for me.” Estrada also enjoys collaborating with friends. “I have a friend who I always talk to during normal class, and we always work on the activities together, so Ms. Morgan always puts us in the same breakout rooms. I like that even though we are separated physically, I can still connect with my friend in class.”

Morgan believes that nothing can replace a face-to-face, hands-on lab experience; however, she is seeing some success in implementing lab work virtually. “The connections students are making in their work definitely demonstrate the depth of their understanding,” Morgan shared. “They also do a reflection with each activity, and it is clear they are looking introspectively and understanding how it could affect them. These lab activities have even encouraged students to explore these topics within their own diets and family histories.”

A little creativity and adaptability sure does go a long way in times like these!