The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2022

Primary School Science: Harnessing Natural Curiosity

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Fay’s second grade science unit on human body systems taps into students’ natural curiosity about a topic that is both relatable—and mysterious!
With help from classroom teachers, Fay’s Science Department chair, parent experts, and a cooperative skeleton, Fay’s second graders took a deep dive this winter as they explored the major systems of the human body.
Starting with the skeletal system, students learned how bones work with muscles and joints to support the human body. They learned about common joints, such as the ball and socket and hinge joints, exploring what it might feel like to move if a particular joint didn’t exist. From their craniums down to their tibias and fibulas, second graders also learned the names of the body’s major bones.
The children welcomed two special guests to the classroom during their skeletal system study. With Science Department Chair Alex Dixon, students created X-ray replicas using Q-tips and black paper. Each student chose a set of bones, such as the rib cage or pelvis. Then, they cut Q-tips to match the shape of the bones and glued them in place on black paper. Second grade teachers also brought over a replica of a skeleton from the Upper School (fondly dubbed “Skully”) so students could examine the size and shape of the bones for themselves. The students used “Skully” as a reference while constructing their X-rays, checking to ensure they had included all the bones with the appropriate shape.
Second grade teacher Jessica Nichols could tell students were engaged because they were spending time with Skully outside science class. “I would find students studying how different parts of his body moved,” she says. “They were fascinated!” Students also used straws and string to make a working replica of a hand, comparing the number of joints in each finger to their thumbs. “The kids would run over to check Skully,” says Jessica, “and then back to fix their straws!”
To document their learning, each student traced a life- size outline of their body on a large sheet of brown paper. As they learned about each successive body system, they added its major components to their skeleton. After the skeletal system, students learned about the muscular, digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems before wrapping up with the respiratory system at the end of the term. Seventh graders helped students finish their life-sized models, sharing what they were learning in Life Science this year with the second graders.
Second graders welcomed additional special guests from the medical field who led experiential learning activities that brought each body system to life. Dr. Amanda Gallant P ’29 ’31 gave students a lesson on the nervous system. She explained that some body parts have more nerve endings than others, and the class tested this concept by poking each other in different body parts with the end of a paperclip. They discovered that while it was easy to tell how many paperclip points were poking their finger, it was much harder to determine the number of points on their shin. Her husband, Dr. Joseph Gallant P ’29 ’31, also visited the class to teach students about the circulatory and respiratory system. He conducted an interactive activity with red and blue balloons that showed how oxygen-rich blood travels through the body and is exchanged for carbon dioxide. St. Mark’s biology teacher Lindsey Lohwater P ’26 ’29 ’32 showed students how to look at cells under a microscope, and pharmacist Nikki Agu P ’27 ’29 explained the journey that food takes through the digestive system.
Nurturing the curiosity of young scientists is key to Primary School science. The human body unit gave students a basic understanding of how the major systems work and helped dispel some myths, but it also prompted more questions and wonderings. Second graders wrote down their questions and sent them to Alex Dixon’s Life Science students, who did some research (when necessary) and sent back video responses with the answers. The second graders asked questions like, “What organs can you live without?” and “How does kidney dialysis work?” The collaboration with seventh grade showed the second graders that the whole community cares about their learning. Science starts from curiosity,” says Alex, “and in Primary School we want to nurture that curiosity and build upon it.”

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