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A Taste of Jon Zahourek’s Colorful Teaching Style

All right, we admit it: not everyone knows about the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System. Even to students building models in the classroom for the first time, the technology appears “new.” Maybe so. But the ideas behind the system, and the way in which it is taught, have been around for quite some time.


And there is video to prove it. These 30-year-old clips, no more than a minute long, feature founder Jon Zahourek explaining anatomical insights in his trademark informative, yet fun-filled style. Yes, you will hear technical anatomical terms; you will also see reenactments of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.



We will not cover all the videos on this page, but here are some insights we found especially interesting:


Apart from being the most fun word to pronounce, brachiatus in Latin means ‘having branches’ or simply ‘branched.’ As the term relates to anatomy, Brachiators are ‘arm travelers.’ In our own evolutionary history, before becoming bipedal, we were primarily brachiators, swinging from limb to limb. Modeling a shoulder joint, Zahourek says, “In order to understand our bodies, you have to understand that our closest relatives—chimps and gorillas, are only one chromosome apart, after all—are brachiators.”


Hold out your hands, palm-up. You are now a supinator. Hold out your hands, palm-down; you are now a pronator. Try walking around on the ground as a supinator. Not so easy, right? Pronation was a key development for early mammals, providing them with the ability to propel themselves in a different and faster way. Otherwise, we’d all still be moving around like crocodiles!

Humans are silky-smooth runners, and a lot of it has to do with our ability to rotate the hips and the upper body. Horses and other quadrupeds do not have such rotational powers. Absent rotation, we would move around like the Tin Man, or like this guy. Bonus fact: the iliofemoral ligament, located at the hip, is the strongest in the human body. It has a tensile strength of more than 772 pounds.


Observing the patella in equines, you will notice a crisp division. On one side is the resting zone; on the other is the gliding zone. This division is built for speed, allowing horses to kick into gear at a moment’s notice. It is also built to support the nearly 2,000 pounds horses carry around with them. By comparison, a human being would have to put her entire body weight on her middle finger to equal the proportion of weight the horse hoof supports as it hits the ground.


And last, but certainly not least…


As Zahourek describes, “you don’t just have pulp that holds its shape. Pulp has to have some form of mesh that holds the goo.” In the human body, fibroblasts are the most common cells found in connective tissue, producing collagen and, by extent, the body’s structural framework. There are osteoblasts, cells that secrete the matrix for bone formation. And there are chondroblasts, cells that secrete the major component of cartilage. “Any animal is woven,” Zahourek says. And there are builders and weavers in every body.


Click here to see the clips in their entirety and get a taste of what it is like to build and learn anatomy with Anatomy in Clay® founder Jon Zahourek.

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