Early Days: The Magic of Props, Part 1

Many students enter the A&P classroom/lab with a mixture of curiosity and dread.  Many have heard that the class is challenging, which it is, and that we have a lot of nifty stuff, which we do.  More than a few come with bad memories of previous science courses, while others may feel that their knowledge is too rusty.

After introductions and a bell ringer (both of which I hope to cover in later posts), we jump right in with a discussion of “complementarity of structure and function.”  What a prissy and intimidating phrase.  Translation: how a thing is built determines what it can do, and what it needs to do dictates how it should be built.  Duh. (If anyone remembers what we said before “duh,” please comment.)

Giant toothbrush–Cost:$1.00

I pull out my Pee Wee Herman-sized toothbrush…one of my dollar store finds; more on that later…and say that I had a little trouble using my new toothbrush this morning.  Can anyone tell me why?  Students point out that it’s too big, the bristles aren’t real, etc.  Then I pull out a real (unused!) toothbrush and ask why this one will work.   Point made.

Mystery Bag–Cost: $0.00

To give the students a chance to practice, I reveal Dr. D’s Secret bag.  The bag, which clearly began life in a famously “secret” retail establishment, contains pictures clipped from magazines featuring familiar items: waffles, a needle, a bookcase, a diving board, a pair of binoculars, a sundress, etc.  Each student considers how the picture he or she drew from the bag illustrates the complementarity of structure and function. Then students share their observations with one another. (I learned the picture trick at New Horizons three years ago, and, unfortunately, cannot recall the presenter’s name.  If you are she, please comment!).

I promise the class that we will be talking about this concept from now until the last day of class, and indeed we do.  Because the strategy uses sensory input, surprise, and humor, and also poses an achievable challenge while building a community on the first day, we are off to a good start.

—Karen

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2 comments on “Early Days: The Magic of Props, Part 1

  1. Allisha says:

    I’ve decided to audit your class in the fall. 🙂

  2. I’ll save you a seat in the front row….and an eyeball just for you!

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