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The “Magic” of Inquiry: Kish Rafique’s Approach to Teaching Anatomy

When it’s time to build anatomy with clay, high school teacher Kish Rafique starts by asking students to refer to the closest available model.




If they are working on the rotator cuff, for instance, she’ll ask students to touch their shoulders and feel the muscles.


She’ll ask: “What does it feel like? Does it feel flat? Does it feel like has a point?” And then she’ll ask her students to move the muscles of the rotator cuff.


“You see adduction and abduction, you see curls and the flexing and extending,” said Rafique on a recent episode of the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System podcast. “You see it all. And I asked them to use words to describe those movements. ‘What are those? Which way are those muscles moving?’ And then we try to think about okay, shape determines the function. If anatomy determines the physiology, what might this muscle look like?”


Rafique, who teaches at Meridian High School in Falls Church City Public Schools outside Washington, D.C., is using the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System for the first time this school year. At the outset, she wasn’t sure how the approach would go over.

“I was very nervous,” said Rafique. “I'm like, ‘are these kids gonna think this is art class now?’ … but their reaction really took me back and it made me realize, wow, they're actually learning like truth, truly learning and not regurgitating, right? They're actually learning. And I got a little emotional. I'm not going to lie, I definitely got a little emotional for the first class that I taught.”


Meridian High School is an International Baccalaureate World School. The campus has an almost college flavor to it and that college-level style of learning applies to classrooms, too.


“It's very inquiry based—and their inquiry normally gets them to the right place,” said Rafique. “And I think that's the magic of it—inquiry requires a lot of patience and a lot of wrong answers.”


Rafique grew up not too far from Falls Church City in a separate community called, yes, Falls Church. (The former is not part of Fairfax County schools; the latter is.) She attended Virginia Tech and George Mason University and she started off doing oncology research before quickly learning that she found the work depressing and, not being an introvert, she found it hard to sit in a cubicle all day.


Along came a chance mention of teacher going on a long-term leave for back surgery and Rafique took the substitute position as a favor to a professor. Four weeks turned into five months and she was immediately hooked on watching “brains grow.” She quit her job, went back to earn her master’s degree in education. Today, she loves seeing students “get happy about science.”


Said Rafique, “That’s the most rewarding thing.”


Now in her eighth year of teaching, Rafique has also immersed herself in the world of high school wrestling—and is helping with the push in Virginia to make female wrestling a sanctioned, recognized sport. Rafique’s thoughts on the convergence of coaching wrestling and teaching anatomy are insightful and we highly recommend listening to how she helps “level the playing field” when girls take on boys on the wrestling mat.


Thank you for an excellent chat, Kish!






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