COVID Restrictions Meet Educational Innovation
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both educators and students have faced significant challenges due to social distancing mandates, online instruction, and an overall disruption in regular channels of communication. But many are overcoming these obstacles with individual and corporate responsibility, initiative, and creativity.
Last semester, Dr. Daniela Popescu, Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Kent State University at Geauga, encouraged the students in her remote Anatomy and Physiology I classes to visit the Body Worlds RX exhibit at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center. This was an optional, student-initiated field trip to a temporary exhibit of plastinated healthy human bodies, organ systems and organs, contrasted with diseased ones.
My students were very excited when I announced this optional activity to them,” says Dr. Popescu. “I did let them know that I would have loved the opportunity to visit this exhibit with them, together, as a class, and explore the amazing specimens from Germany, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not do so.”
Dr. Popescu stressed that the students who chose to visit this exhibit purchased their tickets in advance to reserve their spots, because the museum restricts the number of visitors due to the pandemic. When they visited the exhibit, they followed the safety guidelines of the museum, as well as the Flashes Safe Seven safety principles. Students could have also chosen an alternative virtual assignment if they were not comfortable visiting the museum during the pandemic.
“I am very proud of my students for pursuing this optional educational experience outside the traditional Anatomy and Physiology course to widen their horizons and enrich their knowledge of the anatomy of the healthy and diseased human body,” comments Dr. Popescu. “They were amazed to see and identify various anatomical structures that we talked about during our lecture and laboratory courses.”
For instance, student Vladis Alimova commented to Dr. Popescu, "I’m so glad that you mentioned this exhibit to us and I got to actually go! It was so amazing to see everything there. And I couldn’t believe how much I knew when I was there with my friends. It’s like I was lecturing them all about the human body!”
Student Megan Copeland said, “I had so much fun seeing all of the displays and found it so cool that I was able to identify so many structures that we have went over in class! My favorite display and picture I attached is the javelin thrower. It was so surreal seeing the muscles and bones in real life…”
Student Lydia Boling observed, “They are well set up to make you contemplate yourself and your family and habits that affect your health and mental wellbeing that also affect you physically. The circulatory displays were by far my favorite; seeing the heart valves and the blood vessels that go throughout the body was amazing to me. Seeing the main supplier for life and mobility in such a way (plastination) is healthy for me because I previously didn’t like to even try to think about it. My entire family has heart, valve, and vein problems so it used to make me scared. Depicted in this way, I was able to learn that most of the family heart problems is from lifestyle choices, and I felt more ease as a result.”
Dr. Popescu concludes, “When I teach, I always try to keep in mind the students' perspective by using the learner-centered teaching approaches… Since our course was a remote course, the optional Body Worlds RX educational experience complemented very nicely the interactive virtual software of the 3D anatomy of the human body and the pictures of the lab models that we used during our laboratory courses.”
This Body Worlds RX public exhibit is ongoing at the Great Lakes Science Center through April 3, 2021.