Academic journal article The Science Teacher

PhUn Week: Understanding Physiology: Activities to Promote the Science of Exercise and Health

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

PhUn Week: Understanding Physiology: Activities to Promote the Science of Exercise and Health

Article excerpt

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Topics such as sports, exercise, health, and nutrition can make the science of physiology relevant and engaging for students. In addition, many lessons on these topics, such as those on the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems, align with national and state life science education standards. Physiology Understanding Week (PhUn Week)--sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS)--is an annual outreach event in November that highlights the science of exercise and health. As part of this event, physiologists volunteer to collaborate with teachers in their local communities and visit classrooms to engage students in physiology-based activities.

About PhUn Week

The goals of PhUn Week are to increase student awareness of physiology in their daily lives and introduce them to physiology as a possible career. Through real-life encounters with practicing physiologists--scientists who study how all systems of the body work together from the molecular level to cells to tissues and organs--students learn about how their bodies function and how scientific discoveries are made. Free resources, including a physiology-based comic book, a career brochure, and memorabilia such as stress-ball anatomical hearts, wrist sweatbands, and drawstring sport packs, are provided for students participating in the event. Teachers and physiologists receive PhUn Week t-shirts and engage students in interactive, hands-on activities; for example, students participate in group exercise to examine its effect on heart rate and respiration, muscle contractions, and the cardiovascular system. Science teachers who have participated in APS teacher professional development programs developed and tested these lesson plans and activities in their classrooms (see "Acknowledgments," p. 51). They can be used throughout the school year and are available online to all teachers, even those not participating in PhUn Week (see "On the web").

Getting started

To organize a PhUn Week event in your classroom, start by finding a physiologist--who is also an APS member--at your local research university. Use the PhUn for Teachers tab on the program's website and click on Find a Physiologist to submit your request. Summer is the best time to find a physiologist for your class--this allows for ample time to coordinate a PhUn Week event that will coincide with your lesson plans in November.

Once you have found someone to work with, take advantage of the summer break to develop and discuss a plan of action together. Download the PhUn Week Event Planner from the Planning Tools tab of the website. This form provides information that will help both of you through the design process, such as how to spread lessons throughout the week and structure the physiologist's classroom visit. It is also important to provide your scientist partner with input on how to communicate science information to students. Although scientists find the experience rewarding and inspirational (Munzenmaier 2006), their greatest challenge is delivering science content at the appropriate grade level. So work together to create a presentation that is applicable and relevant to your students. Be sure to submit the Event Planner form no later than October 1 (each year) to receive the free classroom resources.

Designing the event

Logistical planning, flexibility, and coordinating schedules are instrumental in designing and implementing an effective PhUn Week event. The most frequently used method is the traditional science classroom visit. Some physiologists can present to multiple classes in the morning, afternoon, or even for a full day. Others may want to return for an additional visit to analyze data generated in the experiments they conducted with the class. For multiclass or school assembly visits, it is a good idea to orchestrate a schedule of multiple small group activities with a larger team of scientist volunteers. …

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