When you think of the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System in classroom settings, you might think of big universities on metropolitan campuses.
But in tiny, rural Loretto, Tennessee (population 1,500), anatomy classes have been taught to high school students for the last 25-30 years, says teacher Andy Augustin.
Augustin has been teaching in Loretto for 38 years. During that time, the science-trained teacher has taught computer programming, music, art, and physical education. “When you teach for a long time in a small town,” said Augustin with a laugh, “you get to teach a lot of different classes.”
Anatomy and Physiology, however, has been his favorite subject. Offered in the Career and Technical Education department of Loretto High School, he thinks it’s a favorite class among his students, too.
Using the Anatomy in Clay models is key, he said.
“Even though we are covering a tremendous amount of material, the class is more relaxed with this project-based style of learning,” said Augustin, whose classes average 25-30 students each year. “And they are getting more out of it this way. It’s a very, very sad day when we have to disassemble the models.”
And rightly so. By the end of the course, students have put upwards of 80 hours into its construction.
“They have pride in their work, how much they’ve accomplished, and what they now know,” said the veteran teacher.
Since he began teaching the class seven years ago, most of Augustin’s students will head on to careers or further education in the health science fields. Many have told him that his Anatomy and Physiology class has given them the necessary leg-up in rigorous college anatomy classes, in which doing well often determines admittance to nursing or physical therapy programs.
Augustin’s anatomy class is unique in offering a creative outlet for these students, as they spend months building on their models. Recently, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education visited Loretto, which sits just north of the Alabama state line. Augustin was told the commissioner would pass through his class for a minute or two. She ended up staying for 25 minutes.
Although anatomy is offered as a science course, Augustin works closely with the health science instructor, a colleague in the Career and Technical Education department, to ensure that standards and objectives for both science and health science are taught in the class.
“She was very interested in what the students were doing. They were excellent. Very on point.”
While he focuses on the human form, Augustine nonetheless teaches his high schoolers that “mammals are mammals. We talk about bipedal stance versus quadrupedal stance,” he said. Building a representation of the horse with the Equiken® model, he said, is a project he would love to undertake.
“Anatomy in Clay models help test students’ creativity. They allow for that creative expression. Sometimes, there is some finesse that may be missing. Others will be perfectionists and need to let things go. They all have to accountable to the rest of the class. It’s visual and there’s an art to it,” he said.
With school out, Augustin had his own art project doing on. He was busy repainting a mural in town. He originally created it in 1992 and returned to it this year after weather had deteriorated its condition.
Nicely done, Andy!
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