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Erica Huggard: “Students Crave This”

About ten years ago, Emporia High School science teacher Erica Huggard attended an Anatomy in Clay® Learning System training at ESSDACK (Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas) in Hutchinson, Kansas.


“I came back and I was like, ‘I have to have this,’” said Huggard on a recent Anatomy in Clay® podcast. But her school only had one MANIKEN® model. Her principal urged her to start writing grants, specifically applying for federal Perkins money targeted at career and technical education.


Soon, she had 24 models in her classroom and soon after that, another eight were added to the collection—a grand total of 32 in all.


Today, using clay to construct anatomy in Huggard’s classes is routine. The students all know it’s part of what you do in her classes. In fact, models are visible in the display case for the whole school to see. And the Healthcare Pathway is one of the school’s most popular career pathways; 190 students will take Introduction to Healthcare next year (out of 1,300 total students in the school).

 In class, students build 63 muscles in all. “We build and quiz every day, build and quiz, and the students know that I’m very particular about their muscle fiber directions and their anatomical correctness,” said Huggard, who has been teaching for 18 years.


Every year, Huggard takes students to the cadaver lab at Emporia State University and she expects them to name and identify muscles from their anatomical position and the muscle fiber direction.


“And that's always something that really impresses the instructors there at Emporia State—that these MANIKENs help my students so well that as soon as they're in front of a cadaver they know what they're looking at,” said Huggard.


The students, she said, fashion clay with their hands and enjoy working in three-dimensions. “In today's world, there is nothing better than when students are manipulating hands-on materials and they are building them from the ground up,” she said. “They're taking them from the small parts and making them into the whole because they do not have that opportunity when they are in a digital world.”


The clay models, said Huggard, “help them to understand because they're putting on the artery and they're putting on the veins and now, because they're building that, they're helping to make that whole schema in their brain about where those parts are oriented and how they come together. And that's just the problem with a digital world and how we really learn as a species. We've never learned in a 2D world. We've always learned hands-on. And students crave this.”


Huggard recommends that any science teacher who is beginning to use the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System should attend a professional development workshop. And once you understand the basic concepts and ideas of how the system works, she added, you can apply it to systems and joints that you may not know as well as other. When she recently discovered several students who were interested in sports medicine, she had them work on an ankle model in a “learning by doing” exercise that produced detailed understanding of the ankle’s ligaments and bones.


Recently a teacher visited from Burlington, Kansas to see how Huggard taught muscles using the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System. “And I’m like, ‘This is a game changer. It's a game changer for students. It's a game changer for you. They're going to be excited about your class. It's going to give you something that they can really connect to their learning.’”


We produce the podcast as a way to help teachers share ideas and share how they go about teaching with the learning system we produce. We do not produce the podcast in search of ringing endorsements or in hopes each episode will sound like an infomercial—not at all.


But it’s wonderful to hear that Anatomy in Clay is working so well in Emporia, Kansas and thank you, Erica, for all you do bring science to life in your classrooms.






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