Here is the Digestive System Mini Lessons – Part 2 post! There are three more simulations for parts of the digestive system. If you missed the first post on this, be sure to check it out by clicking here.
This activity demonstrates how your teeth help in the digestive process. Students receive a sugar cube as well as a small cup of granulated sugar. They fill two cups with equal amounts of warm water, placing the sugar cube in one cup and the granulated sugar in the other. Students stir each cup and watch how the sugar dissolves. The granulated sugar dissolves much more quickly than the cube, just like your teeth break up food into smaller pieces so it is easier to break down the food later.
2 clear cups
Surface Area Matters – How the Villi Help the Small Intestines
Villi help absorb as many nutrients as possible. To demonstrate this, students take four cups of water and fill each with the same amount. For the first cup, students take one sheet of paper towel, fold it several times, and dip into one of the cups to absorb the water. Then students take a graduated cylinder and measure whatever water is left in the cup that the towel didn’t absorb. Students repeat this using two paper towels folded together, three paper towels, and four paper towels. The four paper towels folded together should absorb the most water, leaving the least amount behind in the cup. Often, I follow up on this by asking, “What would happen if there weren’t as many villi to absorb nutrients?” Students agree that some nutrients may be missed! This always reminds me of the Chocolate Factory clip from I Love Lucy – without enough villi, the intestines would be like Ethel and Lucy and miss a lot of good stuff!
Paper towel (9 sheets)
Let the Juices Flow!
Using orange juice, students see first hand how the acids in our stomachs help break down foods. Bread is torn into small pieces and placed into ziploc bags. Then they pour some orange juice into the bag. Make sure the bags are sealed (otherwise it gets messy!) and squish the bread around. The bread looks gross, but starts to dissolve before your eyes! Students carefully pour the liquid out, leaving behind the solid “waste”, which is then disposed of in the garbage can! This activity simulates several parts of the digestive system, but especially highlights the large intestines’ job.
Orange juice (or another type of fruit juice)
Waste container or sink to empty juice into
I do have short worksheets for all of these activities. Students fill them out to help instruct and guide them throughout the lesson. Please comment or email if you would like to have them!
While students participate in their activities, I like to walk around and ask questions, clarify instructions or just listen to how students explain things to each other. It is awesome to see students making the connections and teaching each other!
Please use these ideas in your own classroom, either in groups like I did, or even as full class demonstrations! Have fun digesting!