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iLabs: Preview of Coming Classes!

July 31, 2013

Okay! To all our visitors, homeschool families, families looking for interesting things to do when “tracked-out” or on vacation, we will be testing out a whole new series of classes, thanks to our Biogen grant. 

Dates have not yet been set, but I have descriptions ready for the first three classes that we’ll be offering. More descriptions will follow, but I wanted to post these so you can have a “Preview of Coming Attractions!”

So here we go, we’ll start off with “The Human Health Mysteries” series:


These classes are designed to explore topics at the intersection of the natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry, with human health issues. Each 1.5-hour curriculum-correlated class offers an introduction to such things as human anatomy and physiology, basic biology, ecology and chemistry concepts, organ systems, cellular structure, pollution, toxicology and human health concerns, disease, diagnosis and critical thinking/problem-solving.

1)    Human Health Mysteries: A Crisis of the Lungs

Students are told that they are scientists on another plant and a visiting human is having difficulty breathing. Before they can offer any help, they must learn all they can about the 2 strange items involved: a lung and a heart. They know only a few facts, such as when humans breathe, oxygen goes into the lungs, gets into the blood cells that are pumped there by the heart, and is transported to the rest of the body. They make up a list of things they must determine:

  • – What are the structures of the lung and heart and how do they work?
  • –  How is oxygen moved into and out of the lungs?
  • –  How is blood moved into and out of the lungs?
  • –  What are red blood cells and how does the lung get oxygen into each of them?
  • –  How do the red blood cells carry the oxygen out to the body and get it into body tissues?
  • –  How does a normal lung compare to a diseased one?

Students will employ the skills of observation, recording and critical thinking to analyze models, charts, and pre-dissected sheep lung and heart specimens, in an attempt to gain some preliminary clues about these organs.  Microscope slides of lung and heart tissue will provide clues at the cellular level. Hands-on lab activities will illustrate how some of the structures actually function. The effects of various diseases, smoking, and pollution on lung function are covered and the class concludes with the students offering their thoughts on what might be happening to the patient in distress.

2)    Human Health Mysteries: Kidney Chemistry – Things Aren’t What They Seem

Kidneys. They look like beans and produce a liquid waste called urine. At first kidneys seem like a simple case of liquid in, liquid out. But things don’t add up. Previous investigations revealed that not everything that goes in, comes out. What is going on?

Tasked with having to answer this question, student detectives must first learn about the structure of a kidney. They examine models, charts, and pre-dissected specimens as well as microscope slides of kidney tissues in an effort to learn what makes up this strange organ. They must then use the lab activities, as well as the skills of observation, critical thinking and analysis to determine exactly HOW that waste is produced and where, as well as how other substances such as salts, sugars, proteins and water are actually prevented from leaving. Along the way students learn the vital role kidneys play in managing the body’s blood pressure, acid-base balance, production of red blood cells, proper salt (electrolyte) levels, and fluid retention, as well as clearing out toxic wastes, chemicals and drugs. Also covered are some facts about kidney disease. Particular topics explored in this class include:

  • – Cellular membrane structure
  • – The dynamics of osmosis and diffusion
  • – What happens, and where: anatomy of kidneys (using models, dissected kidneys, and microscope slides)
  • –  pH, salt and buffer chemistry
  • – Dialysis: what happens when things go wrong
  • – Kidney Disease – Diet, Disease, Pollution, & Toxins,
  • – How does the kidney affect red blood cell production
  • – Critical thinking, questioning and analysis skills

3)    Human Health Mysteries: pH – The Secret Alliance of Kidneys and Lungs 

Kidneys and lungs.  One filters waste, the other lets us breathe.  So when a patient shows up very ill from an incorrect pH level in their body, why do doctors look at both of these organs for the source of the problem…and the solution?

This class covers the basics of acid-base chemistry, including hands-on lab activities with pH meters, acids, bases, and buffers. It explores how two body organs with very different functions, in very different locations, actually work together to keep the human body in its narrow, life-sustaining pH range. Comparing organ models to dissected sheep organs and microscopic views of tissues, students will learn about the anatomy and functions of these vital organs, as well as how to observe, record, and question what they see. The class concludes with the students learning why the patient’s pH is out of normal range, and what can be done to help.

Focus will be on diseases, such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, caused by smoking), and Type II Diabetes (caused by poor diet), and their effects on:

  • – Kidney and lung tissues
  • – Blood pH problems such as Pulmonary and Metabolic Acidosis
  • – Long-term health outlook

So please keep an eye on the museum website (and this blog) for further class descriptions, and class date announcements. Thanks!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2013 12:41 pm

    Hi, Debra,
    I just saw your blog. Any news on these classes yet? Where would I go about finding information on them? Thanks, DK

    • August 29, 2013 9:54 am

      I am putting up a post today on what’s coming for classes, descriptions, when, where to register, etc. So we are getting close! Thanks for writing! Deb

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