Color Coding

At Renaissance High School in Boise, medical terminology teacher Scott Marema doesn’t take students to the cadaver lab until the end of the semester.


In his word, work in the cadaver lab is a “carrot.”



Marema wants students to build up their knowledge of anatomy and anatomical terms before going into the lab—and to develop some basic knowledge of what they’ll see.


The cadaver lab is located at Idaho State University. However, it’s easily accessed because Renaissance High School shares the same campus with ISU.


Working on the cadaver, says Marema, presents students with a kind of moment of truth. Some students see a cadaver and start thinking of other careers. Cadaveric dissection is, quite simply, not for everyone. At the same time, other students see a cadaver for the first time and feel their enthusiasm for health care grow. “It’s life-changing,” says Marema.


“There’s some kids that go in there that thought, ‘oh, I’m going to be a nurse’ and they see the body, and they go, ‘that’s it, no, I don’t want to have any part of hands-on care.’ So I tell them you don’t necessarily have to give up medicine. You can do coding, or you can be an administrator in a hospital, or work in bioengineering.”


Other than the personal discomfort some students experience, there is also another major problem with cadavers.


Everything inside is the same color. Cadavers all have the same “orangeish-brownish” hue, says Marema.


Working with the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System models first, he says, helps students recognize the different structures because each system can be built using the vivid colors available.


Building with clay first, says Marema, works.


“When we went into the cadaver lab, they could see a tricuspid valve or mitral valve, and they could see the chordae tendineae and things like that, and they had a greater appreciation,” says Marema. “I think it was valuable to build it first … so when you see the various components, you understand what it is and what it should look like and where the structures are located.”


It also helps to have a teacher like Marema, who is enthusiastic about his subject.


If you’re on the health career track at Renaissance High School, you’re required to take Scott Marema’s class in medical terminology. If you are on the pharmacy tech track, the certified nurse assistant track, or the emergency medical technician track—or any other health career—you need to learn the language.


And Marema is learning right alongside them. Recently, he was pondering the brachiocephalic artery.


It suddenly dawned on Marema that this particular artery exits the heart and goes up the right side to the head and arm.


“And I’m like well, brachiomeans arm and cephalicmeans head and I think, ‘why didn’t I ever think about that before?’ The brachiocephalic gives it a very specific location, because you have this tube that goes throughout the body, and it’s named based on the structures it’s going to or it’s near, and I felt so stupid. Here, I’m even learning things that I should already know, but I’m learning with the kids.”


Marema, who found out about the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System at a conference and recently attended a two-day professional development in Boise, is self-deprecating and also full of enthusiasm for the topic he gets to teach. He will excitedly point out that the appendix is known formally as the vermiform appendix and vermiform means “having the form of a worm” in Latin. Guess what the appendix looks like?


“The more I teach it, the more I enjoy it,” says Marema. “I’m just glad that there is something like (Anatomy in Clay® Learning System). I think the opportunities, the creativity to do things is enormous. It’s basically dependent on us on how we incorporate it in the classroom. I love the whole process and I love teaching this class.”


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