Dorota Haragova of Hoboken and her classmates from Jersey City – Kyra Turner, Laiba Khan, and Malaika Syed – gave a collective shudder during their presentation on lymphatic system during the one-day showcase on the human body held by Explore Middle School, a county public middle school, on March 26.
Over the years students from around Hudson County have discovered these odd facts along with a host of other information as part of a program called Explore 2000 – but when it came to their part of the presentation, a lymphatic diseases called Elephantiasis gave them all the willies. It’s a tropical disease in which the body is invaded by a large worm – sometimes ingested from contaminated drinking water – which causes horrible distortion in the body, and requires extended amount of surgery to undo.
While each of the students talked about various things that could go wrong in that particular bodily system, all five found Elephantiasis horrifying – and at the same time, intriguing.
Explore 2000 is a unique kind of middle school that is a school within the Jersey City campus of the Hudson County Schools of Technology on Montgomery Street that uses a project-based method of education. During this event, the 55 students from every corner of Hudson County helped host a student showcase about The Human Body.
“For the past three months, our students have been exploring an in-depth investigation: How do the systems of the human body function?” said Assistant Principal Amy Lin-Rodriguez. “Through various activities, field experiences, and research, our students presented how these systems work together to create one of the most complex living organisms on Earth.”
“Our teachers are often known as facilitators because we help our students learn and investigate new information, not just teach them.” -- Amy Lin-Rodriguez
In some ways, these students are a throwback to the one-room schoolhouse, where students from grades six to eight often team up together on these projects.
“John Ponticorvo, Experiential Field Advisor, meets daily with our team of facilitators to plan new events and interactive experiences for our students,” Lin-Rodriguez said. “This trimester we have embarked on many exciting adventures to bring our studies of the Human Body to life.”
This includes trips outside of the school buildings to places like NJ Rock Climbing Gym for goal setting and team building, Carmine’s Pizza Factory for a healthy twist to pizza, NJ Kickboxing Gym for cardio and strength-training activities, WholeFoods Supermarket in Edgewater for an interactive tour and selecting sound nutritional choices, Mainline Health and Fitness for a synchronized paddle pool activity, and other places.
The science of it
Lauren Norcia, the science teacher, facilitated the part of the program that investigated the various systems of the human body. Groups of students reach different systems and do a presentation on what they learned. “I learned a few things myself,” Norcia said.
Jonathan Pham, a sixth grade student from Jersey City, said his team had to learn about the digestive system. Using charts and diagrams, he and his companions went through the whole process of digesting food.
Along with Solimar Colombani and Cole Quist from Hoboken, Phoenix Gunther from Jersey City, and Angelina Ponce from West New York, Pham explored what happened to food when people eat.
They worked together on different aspects of the presentation, developing their own displays, talking points, even their own cartoon to highlight the process.
Each of them learned something that surprised them or that they hadn’t thought of.
“I was really surprised by how many organs all work together,” Solimar said.
What goes in, of course, has to come out. Thus, another group of kids was assigned to study the body’s process for getting rid of waste. Jesse King from North Bergen, along with Cesar Betancurth of Bayonne and Amar Arslanovic of Jersey City, were among the students that had to follow the trail and learn the details of how each part of the human anatomy got rid of what the body no longer needed.
They learned odd details about how the average human being expels a million gallons of liquid in a lifetime. And though the kidneys are responsible filtering waste water, it is a signal from the bladder that informs the brain it is time to urinate – the bladder acting like a balloon that fills up and empties when a person urinates. The kids’ display included a variety of items such as a clay model.
Genesis Santos, Alyssa Alvarez, Kennedy Johnson, Sheron Scriven, and Joy Stackhouse, five girls from Jersey City, got the task of explaining the human reproductive system, female and male.
One girl said she was reading part of her text aloud at home with the word “penis” mentioned, causing her mother to question just what she exactly she was reading.
Dressed in identical lab jackets, the girls handled the delicate subject with clarity and precision, using diagrams to explain each aspect. Yet as potentially embarrassing a subject as it might have been, it was a valuable lesson, they said, providing them with a clearer understand of one of the often misunderstood processes of the human anatomy.
Meanwhile Jordan Davis-Newton, Kelly Maldonado, Daniel McLain and other students from Jersey City took on the equally complicated muscular system, first explaining what it is supposed to do and what can go wrong.
Jordan, an athlete himself, explained the concept of “Tommy John Surgery,” which was named after a professional baseball picture who underwent reconstructive surgery during the 1970s that allowed him to continue his career.
Learn by doing
The philosophy of Explore 2000 is that kids learn best by doing, and that by giving them a project along with a stimulating environment, they will learn better. While it differs in approach, it is still consistent with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards utilizing thematic, hands-on, student-centered interdisciplinary activities and accelerated learning based on real-life context.
Students’ learning styles are assessed to determine appropriate learning activities.
Explore 2000 investigates, in depth, a total of nine thematic units over a three-year period that include outer space, the human body, living oceans, environmental threats, a study of the 20th century, amazing animals, freedom fighters, ancient civilizations, and natural wonders of New Jersey.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.