Sometimes science projects are hard for even the best students to stomach, and that’s the case with Benton Shriver’s human physiology class at Putnam City High School.
The students built a working digestive system as part of a Junkyard Digestion unit. The rules are simple: Students must construct a digestive system from household items.
“They are not allowed to buy anything,” Shriver said. “They have to write a proposal, and I have to approve it before we begin. Then they feed it a meal, and it has to produce an end product.”
The project was designed by Putnam City Principal Diana Lebseck in 2002. This is the first year students in Shriver’s class have used it to study the workings of the human digestive system.
“It’s more fun and it’s less paperwork,” junior Johnny Sexton said. “We have a diagram of how everything works as far as the digestive system that we work from, but I think it’s easier to learn by doing things.”
Sexton feeds a mixture of bread, carrots and bananas into his team’s Dwayne “The Box” Johnson, a stack of boxes containing the inner workings of their project. A University of Oklahoma hat and boots complete the project’s look. After some struggles, the byproduct begins to come out of the bottom of the project.
Each group has a different take on how to make it work. One team uses pantyhose and funnels. Some use long plastic tubes. Students are graded on participation, the consistency of the waste product their experiment spits out and their written proposals.
“My overall participation has been very high,” Shriver said. “They've been looking forward to it. We talked about it at the beginning of the year back in August, and every week since then someone has asked when we get to make poop.”
Senior Kaitlyn Endicott said projects like Junkyard Digestion allow room for students to be imaginative while staying within the parameters of what they’re supposed to be learning.
“I learn better with hands-on experience,” she said. “It’s easier for me to understand the project, because reading a book just doesn’t stick in my brain as well as when we’re actually learning something by doing it.”