Using Models and Diagrams in Anatomy & Physiology

My first year teaching Anatomy and Physiology, I had a $400 budget. Sad, huh? I spent every penny of that on a full-size model of a human skeleton! Why? Because I knew that students need models and diagrams to help them visualize concepts they can’t see. Plus, skeletons are big and little creepy. 😉

Anatomical Models

It’s hard to beat models for helping your A & P students understand the structure and function of body systems. If you’re trying to decide which models to purchase for your A & P class, here’s a list of the ones I would recommend, in the order in which I would purchase them:

  1. A life-size torso with all major internal organs. If possible, spend extra to get one with removable organs. Sometimes the heart, brain, stomach, kidney, liver, and intestines will detach from the model. This is the biggest bang for your buck since it includes several body systems and students can see the size, shape, and relative location of the organs.
  2. Skeleton (I bought the skeleton first because I inherited an old torso that I used until I could afford a better one.)
  3. Life-size models of these organs (if they aren’t included in your torso): heart, brain, kidney, stomach, liver (with gallbladder, pancreas & duodenum)
  4. Large models of the eye, ear, and teeth
  5. Disarticulated skeleton. There was a “box of bones” in my classroom when I arrived and I had no idea what to do with it, at first. But, I soon fell in LOVE with those bones! I developed a bone identification and skeleton building activity that my A & P kiddos really enjoyed. It’s in this resource, if you want to take a look: Skeletal System Supplements
  6. Finish off your model collection over time with models you like such as: the skin, vertebral column, fetal development, the reproductive system, and a maybe a complex joint such as the shoulder or knee.

Anatomical Charts

As I was collecting anatomical models over the years, I also started an anatomical chart collection. I recommend buying a sturdy portable stand with a few posters that you don’t have good models for, like maybe the endocrine, lymphatic, and immune systems.

Add to your collection over time until you have all the systems covered. Then, you can add extra posters that cover topics like cardiovascular disease, common knee injuries, effects of obesity, etc.

Diagrams for Students

In addition to model and charts, I wanted students to have their own diagrams of the body systems. I spent hours searching for black line drawings for my students to color and label. I found some good ones on WebMD back then, but I can’t find them now.

When I didn’t have a good diagram, I asked students to draw, color, and label their own. This worked well for some students, but certainly not for everyone. So, I started making my own diagrams. I currently have human anatomy diagrams, with quizzes, in my Science Island store for these systems:

You can make these diagrams yourself, if you have time. For my resources, I look for an accurate, clear image that’s available for commercial use. Then, I make modifications. For example, on my heart diagram, the right pulmonary veins were not included, so I added those.

Once I like the image, I add labels, letters, numbers, etc. to create different formats. I like to have . . .

  • A labeled one for studying
  • A blank one for labeling and coloring
  • One with letters and/or numbers for quizzing and review
  • One with lines so students can fill in the blanks

If you have any good resources for diagrams, please share in the comments below.

Happy Teaching!

Carla Brooks is the owner and curriculum designer of Science Island Curriculum which specializes in creating engaging and effective curriculum for Biology and Anatomy & Physiology

About Carla Brooks

A highly qualified public high school science teacher for 18 years, Carla's credentials include a B.S. in Secondary Education: Biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Chaminade University and National Board Certification in Adolescent and Young Adulthood Science. After personal circumstances required her early retirement from teaching, Carla has enjoyed sharing her lessons and experience on this website and in her Science Island Store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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