Regardless of the type of learner a student is, he will usually retain more with some hands-on activities. Most systems of the body, including the digestive system, lend themselves to a variety of simulations to foster a better understanding of the processes that keep us alive.
A Walk through the Digestive System
For this simulation give each student a 3-by-5 note card to represent a piece of food. The student then carries the card to various stations around the room that represent parts of the digestive system. These stations should include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus. At each station, the student will receive directions concerning how to "digest" his card before moving on to the next step in the digestive process. Whatever "food" is left, will remain in the anus with the student's name on it. Students will then gather in groups of four to discuss what they've experienced. Some students may want to actually create a large scale digestive system for people to walk through.
The Body System Travel Agency has just hired the class to give tours through the various body systems. Their first task is to create a travel brochure to highlight the imports and exports of each area -- circulatory, digestive, nervous and so on -- as well as the "trendy" spots and exciting activities the systems contain. Also mention any dangers or precautions that tourists should be aware of when visiting each system. During this activity, students will not only visit the digestive system and show how it works, but they will also see how food is used to nourish the other body systems as well. Students may also create commercials to highlight each body system tour.
While the digestive system usually works smoothly, it can face problems such as constipation, gas, diarrhea, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and several others. Ask students to prepare brochures such as those found in a doctor's office to explain the causes of each and how the problem can be managed or avoided. As an alternative assignment, students can prepare the brochures for a pediatrician's office.
A Digestive Mystery
Show students the movie "Fantastic Voyage" about scientists who are shrunk and placed in a miniature submarine in order to remove a blood clot from the brain of a defecting Russian scientist. The film is somewhat dated as far as looks, but it can provide the basis of a movie thriller created by students to highlight the workings of the digestive system. The film should have a plot and appropriate characters. Let students select appropriate music to go with their film's action.