Biology - Body of evidence on show for secondaries

Controversial corpse-preserver Dr Gunther von Hagens is offering science teachers in Britain ideas for classroom activities. None of these involve flaying the class hamster and then plasticising it.

But the German physician's lesson ideas, aimed at secondary level, do include getting pupils to draw outlines of themselves, then looking for similar-sized corpses at his new exhibition in London.

And topics suggested for class discussion include "Imagine that a member of your immediate family wanted to be plastinated".

Dr Von Hagen's latest exhibition, Body Worlds and the Mirror of Time, starts at the O2 centre on October 24 and will be open for 10 months. It has a special focus on the human life cycle, particularly how bodies grow and age, and will include over 200 "plastinates" - the bodies of volunteers who have agreed to be preserved and put on show.

The free lesson materials for the exhibition, which are available online, include parental consent forms for those planning visits. They warn parents that the exhibition includes foetuses and that most of the specimens on display "are without skin, so you can see the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and organs, including eyes and genitals".

Exercises which pupils can carry out in the classroom include constructing a small model to demonstrate how people breathe, using a plastic cup to represent the chest, a drinking straw for the trachea and two balloons, one for the lungs and one for the diaphragm.

Susanne Buck, education manager of the O2, said the exhibition was particularly recommended for science, PE and personal, social and health education teachers working with key stage 3 and 4 pupils or A-level students.

"It is a fantastic chance for students to understand the workings of the human body and will complement theory-based teaching in the classroom," she said. "When students come face to face with their own anatomy, it's an experience that can transform their knowledge and understanding."

A free preview event for teachers is being held on the evening of November 12. To attend, register online and bring accreditation.


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