Our sixth graders are beginning their unit on human body systems, beginning with the digestive system. One of the teachers requested a fun intro activity for this unit, and after browsing the web for ideas, I stumbled across images of a foam digestive system puzzle that looked pretty cool. I knew my local Dollar Tree carried fun foam sheets, so I decided to go stock up on foam, and then find a nice diagram of the digestive system online I could copy for the students to make their puzzle pieces from. When I hit the Dollar Tree, imagine my surprise to find the original foam puzzles there! I quickly bought all they had to use as reference guides for the students.
I ran copies of the different parts of the puzzle so the students would have some tracing guides to work from, and I gave them two options. They could make a traditional puzzle just like the example by cutting out space for the organs and placing them inside, or they could go a slightly easier route and just glue the organs to their body cutout to make a 3D model. Surprisingly, most students chose the more complex puzzle option!
First, they cut out the torso shape and traced it onto their fun foam. For the body base, I found larger sheets of GLITTER foam. Who doesn’t love glitter? I had them trace the torso shape on the non-sparkly side so that any Sharpie marks would not be visible on the finished product. Then they cut out their torsos.
Next, if they were doing the puzzle version, they cut out the body cavity shape from the paper master, traced and cut it out of their torso. After that, or if they were doing the 3D version, they cut out their organ shapes and traced them on different colors of foam. For the 3D models, they are gluing the organs in place. The puzzles will keep the organs loose, but glue the torso with the empty body cavity to a solid piece of foam to make it easier to use.
I originally thought this activity could be finished in one 40 minute period, but quickly found that between me giving a short overview of the digestive system before we began, and the kids being very conscientious about their tracing and cutting that we need two class periods to finish up. I can already tell these are going to be awesome when they are finished!