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FLEX students become biology teachers

During her Wednesday Biology 101 course, Assistant Professor of Biology Heidy Contreras explains sexual reproduction to freshmen in her FLEX program class. The class traveled to De Anza Middle School in Ontario to instruct outreach activities based on exercise physiology. The initiative was sponsored by the American Physiological Society. Students from Contreras’ class were in charge of running physical activities for about 120 middle school students. / photo by Zachary Horton

During her Wednesday Biology 101 course, Assistant Professor of Biology Heidy Contreras explains sexual reproduction to freshmen in her FLEX program class. The class traveled to De Anza Middle School in Ontario to instruct outreach activities based on exercise physiology. The initiative was sponsored by the American Physiological Society. Students from Contreras’ class were in charge of running physical activities for about 120 middle school students. / photo by Zachary Horton

Mariela Patron
Staff Writer

University of La Verne freshmen biology students visited De Anza Middle School in Ontario to teach seventh- and eighth-graders about the different body systems and how they respond to different physical activity on Monday.

The outreach activity was part of the American Physiological Society’s Physiology Understanding Week for which the APS encourages science professors to partner with Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers to help increase student awareness of physiology.

“By being teachers they better learn the topic,” Heidy Contreras, assistant professor of biology, said.

It gives them the responsibility and pressure to know the subject they are teaching perfectly, Contreras said.

More than 60 De Anza students were split into groups to learn about the featured body systems.

Each of the five systems – muscular, respiratory, circulatory, excretory and digestive – were included in the lesson.

The group that explained the muscular system used rope to describe how muscle fibers become stronger the more a person exercises.

A thin rope was used to represent one individual fiber, while a thicker rope represented the strength of fibers when grouped together.

Students were called up to cut the “muscle fibers” and laughed when the scissors couldn’t cut through.

“The visuals helped them understand better,” freshman movement and sports science major, Alec Garcia said. “The reaction in the later groups was better.”

All groups used visuals in different ways to help students visualize the organisms.

For the respiratory system, the group used balloons to show the part oxygen plays in the body when exercising and standing still.

Two reluctant, shy participants stood and did jumping jacks while trying to blow a balloon while two other students blew the balloon effortlessly.

The people exercising had smaller balloons, proving that when exercising, it’s harder for the body to take in oxygen.

For the circulatory system, a blood flow road map was taped to the floor and students scurried along the path the blood takes to receive oxygen.

De Anza students represented the blood flow and by high-fiving a ULV student, the blood received oxygen.

“At first they were really shy but as we got into the activity they started learning more,” Isabel Torres, freshman political science major, said. “By our questions it seemed like they really understood it.”

De Anza students laughed every time “pee” was said during the excretory system presentation.

The presenters encouraged middle school students to drink less soda and energy drink and instead drink water.

An assembly line represented the process food goes through in the digestive system.

A plastic bag, representing food, was passed down a row of 12 students and sprayed with water to represent saliva and sponges representing the large intestine.

Students removed candies from the bag, representing nutrients that are found inside of food. The students would then throw away the bag, to represent the rectum.

“I would love to do this again,” Michael Gomez, principal of De Anza Middle School said. “I love having La Verne students on campus.”

Gomez hopes students gained a valuable hands-on experience in anatomy as part of the Life Science curriculum.

Contreras hopes that in the future she can work with the teachers on more of a personal level to help them enhance their curriculum.

Mariela Patron can be reached at mariela.patron@laverne.edu.

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