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Top Tip: How to use small intestines in the classroom

porcine small intestine
Porcine small intestine

I heard this from a lab tech from northern NSW at ConQEST.  She did such a good job with the small intestine in the science classes that now she’s asked to bring it into the hospitality classes as well.

She puts the specimen into an ice cream container and lets a little bit hang over the side.  Then she gets the kids to gather around and guess at what it is.  They can touch it at this stage but they can’t see what it looks like in the container.

After a while they get to see it all coiled up in the container and everyone gets around to working out that it’s a small intestine.  Then they start to wonder how long it is.  They’ve heard that these things can be metres long, so they are allowed to start extending it out.

They pull and they pull and they pull.  Eventually they are all standing holding this thing and then the labbie gets the tape measure out.  It’s around 6m long.

All the while these kids have been hearing about what the purpose of the small intestine is, where it fits in the jigsaw puzzle that is your abdominal cavity and what it connects to and so on.  They are fascinated by the thing and asking lots of really good questions.  Before they know it these kids can spout off all sorts of fun facts about their digestive system.  Teaching by stealth – I love it!

The specimen is tough enough to handle this over and over again.  You will store it quite happily in the fridge for years before you need a new one.  If you’re willing to you can sacrifice a little bit and make a wet mount to be viewed under the microscope.  Look out for the little ‘hairs’ along the edges – those are the remnants of all the circulatory system structures that bring oxygen to the small intestine and carry fluid away from it.

This is definitely a specimen that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Miss Vivi