text / Teacher Ann / Ren Ai Branch
It has been a joyful two-week ride through the human body. Both the students and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about our immune and digestive systems. Armed with knowledge, I believe each student is now ready to face the post-Covid world. There were so many wonderful and memorable moments I would’ve liked to share with everyone, but I’d be writing (and you’d be reading) for hours on end. Instead, I would like to share with you some of the highlights during the two weeks I taught Cell Wars.
Cell Wars is all about learning about the functions of our body. From the digestive system to the immune system, our body is similar to a machine, as depicted in the wonderful anime Cells at Work. In order to take care of the machine that helps us run, we need to understand the different functions and needs of this machine that is our body. Furthermore, we also learned about different germs, bacteria, and viruses that could harm our body and ways we can avoid that.
I am a strong believer in hands-on learning, and believe that children learn best when they can take the knowledge they have learned and make it into something tangible, whether that is the heart model that we created as a class or the models of different organs. Through the heart model, we learned through trial and error that it takes patience and a deft hand to make the heart pump. From our successes and failures, we also realized how difficult it was for the heart muscles to pump so much blood through the body. I, personally, have had to try numerous times before teaching the students how to build the heart model. But I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly some of the students were able to create a working heart model. They even posted creative pictures of it through Seesaw. Each student demonstrated creativity not just in building models, but also in creating informative stories as well.
“Ms. Ann! So do the red blood cells fly into outer space when we get hurt?”
I would always remember some of the questions I was asked while teaching. In an episode about scrapes and cuts, the anime described bleeding as red blood cells flowing out of one’s body quickly. From the outside, blood is flowing out, but on the inside and on a cellular level, the red blood cells were being sucked out of the body and into the abyss. This representation not only aids with understanding how the body works, but also gives children endless ideas when it comes to them creating comic strips.
Through the anime Cells at Work, the students learned about the human body in an abstract way, looking at it through the lens of cells. The body, in this case, is transformed into a giant community, complete with different departments. The cells are defined by their uniforms, distinct personalities. For example, the children quickly learned that T cells love to fight and even gave the Helper T Cell an endearing (and somewhat funny) nickname of “that guy who makes phone calls and drinks coffee”.
In our final class, we took the knowledge we learned about our immune system, vaccines, and put it into the real-world context. Besides the pandemic we are facing now, there were many epidemics in the past. We chose to look at the polio epidemic in America in the earlier part of the 20th century. As ide from learning about the vaccines created by Jonas Salk, we also looked at ways polio was treated in the past. Much like Covid-19, there wasn’t a straightforward way of treating patients, and many were put into a machine called the iron lung which looked like a futuristic spaceship. The visual representation was both a fascinating learning opportunity and a poignant reminder for children of the seriousness of this pandemic. As the Spanish philosopher, George Santaya so famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Through learning about the early failures and later successes of the Polio Epidemic, the class applied the theoretical to the practical. They learned the importance and necessity of vaccines. In the midst of our current chaos, I believe students have come out of this class better informed and more knowledgeable. I would like to thank all students and parents who have made this class smooth sailing and fun to teach. I personally have enjoyed teaching this wonderful class!