Friday, April 6, 2012

First Thematic Unit (Prosthetics) - Please Help

     I'm currently in the process of creating my first thematic unit (well, part of it at least). While my theme that would take several weeks would be the human body, focusing on bones, joints, and muscles, I only have to actually plan at least 5 lessons that I will teach the fifth grade class I am working with. For these lessons, my theme is prosthetics. This set of lessons comes at the end of my class studying the bones, joints, and muscles.

      The theme of prosthetics is based off of the Indiana Academic Standards under Science, Engineering, and Technology. The Core Standard is "Design a prototype that replaces a function of a human body part." Underneath the Core Standard is three other standards:

5.4.1 Investigate technologies that mimic human or animal musculoskeletal systems in order to meet a need.
5.4.2 Investigate the purpose of prototypes and models when designing a solution to a problem and how limitations in cost and design features might affect their construction.
5.4.3 Design solutions to problems in the context of musculoskeletal body systems. Using suitable tools, techniques and materials, draw or build a prototype or model of a proposed design.

    So far, I have brainstormed some ideas but am not sure how well they would work. Ideally, we would do a group project where they actually have to design a prosthetic based off of a problem (perhaps just draw, but actually building would be more fun). First, we would do some research and learn more about prosthetics through books. Then, they would have to determine factors to consider like cost, what function it should have,and how heavy it is. We would also study the history of prosthetics, making a timeline, to help them determine what technology has been used in the past that they might consider. Finally, they would draw designs of their prosthetic (and make, if I can find a way to do that).

    I have also found some books to supplement all of our learning about science. Some are just books about the human body, skeletal system, muscular system, and joints. Others were actual about prosthetics, whether on humans or animals. Some of my favorites were:

Artificial Limbs by Susan Gray
This book gives good information about the history behind artificial limbs/prosthetics. It tells how they had been made and what has spurred on new inventions. Prosthetics had only been designed by doctors in the past, but now a whole team of people designs them . It also discusses how artificial limbs have to be specifically made for the person who is going to use it, and they can be made for specific purposes. Several leading innovators are also featured. Overall, I felt that this picture book gave good information and was an enjoyable read. I would not expect most of my students to want to read the whole thing, but they would definitely be interested in parts, and it is a valuable resource for me.

Gretchen the Bicycle Dog by Anita Heyman
This book tells the story of Gretchen, who was an ordinary dog until one day when she jumped out of a bed. She landed awkwardly and hurt her spine, paralyzing her hind legs. She learned to scoot around using just her front legs. Then, her family got Gretchen her own cart, which gave her wheels for hind legs. On her new bicycle legs, Gretchen learned to get around and play like she always did before. Personally, I really enjoyed this book and think my students would love it, especially since it is about a dog. I'm looking into finding other books about animals with prosthetics such as Winter's Tale and Molly the Pony.

    If you have any ideas to help me with this unit, I would love to hear them! I would also be interested in any advice you have about writing thematic units in general. Let me know what you think.

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