Archive - November 2013


…as a teacher (as well as an RN), it makes my day to be teaching with the models now. I know my students are really learning anatomy by building in clay both in my live classes and my distance learning interactive television classes. I cannot imagine learning anatomy and physiology without the models!

Valerie Heuchert, RN, Health Careers Instructor, North Valley Career and Technical Center, Grafton, ND

Featured Educator Thomas Lehman: A Man with a Passion for Anatomy

Thomas Lehman teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Pathophysiology (the study of disease processes), and a vascular course to technicians at Coconino Community College (CCC) in Flagstaff, AZ. Prior to his eight years at CCC, he also taught Biology at Fort Morgan Community College in Fort Morgan, CO. He’s been heavily involved with HAPS (Human Anatomy and Physiology Society) since 1999, having served on the steering committee for nine years, and currently residing as president elect. Further, he’s trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

This well-rounded professor learned about the ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System fifteen years ago when he began working with students at Ft. Morgan in 1998. There were some human skeletal models sitting on the shelf, and previous faculty had told him he could use them to teach muscle systems. With no instruction, he dedicated himself to learning the system. Then he found out that Zahourek Systems, Inc. was located close by in Loveland. He quickly obtained copies of the atlas workbooks and participated in professional workshops to round out his training.

Supporting students on the healthcare career path.

He has used the learning system with his students ever since. Most students at CCC are primarily going into healthcare careers, such as premed, dentistry, physical therapy, or occupational therapy. There are also a lot of students who are studying nursing and emergency medical services. Some students preparing for the nursing program at CCC and nearby Northern Arizona University take their pre-requisite anatomy and physiology classes here. The learners represent a wide variety of age groups and ethnicities.

Effectively teaching anatomy while still honoring Native American beliefs.

The CCC campus, located nearby several Indian reservations, attracts many Native American students. This particular population presents a special consideration when it comes to anatomy study. The local Native American customs and rituals regard human remains and some animal remains as sacred. Thus students from the reservation who honor these beliefs may choose not to engage in some types of dissections. The ANTOMY IN CLAY® Learning System is particularly useful with this group as they can learn much of the anatomy curriculum without dissection.

Helping students overcome resistance and creating a supportive learning environment.

Thomas has noticed over his years of teaching that the clay building component works best if it plays a substantial role in the teaching of anatomy. He says, “Initially, there is some reluctance.” Students begin gradually, placing dots on the muscles to learn the vocabulary and structure. Then they start by building different body components. Once they become more familiar with using the clay, they build onto the MANIKEN® models. At this point, for most students, the methodology clicks and they are very enthusiastic about attending class.

Lehman gives students a lot of time to work with the clay and models, allowing them to build for a while; then, he will visit each station and critique student work, offering corrective assistance. He ultimately integrates these insights into his lectures. His classroom is set up so that four students work together on one MANIKEN® Student Model split into halves. During lab reviews, students walk around and compare the 18 models in all their variations of built anatomy to further their understanding.

Some advice to fellow educators:

Take your time to integrate the materials. And do not labor over the aesthetics at the expense of learning. Accuracy is important, but stressing over the “art” is not the point. He shares, “The clay allows you to build human structures, and if they’re not formed correctly at first, you can take off the clay and start again.” Also, he advised not to focus the entire curriculum on the clay modeling, but to balance it with other learning methods, as well as in conjunction with traditional dissection “which provides a sense of texture and proportion.”

Besides the efficacy of the learning system, Lehman loves that the experience “opens up shy students who might not have shown their passion, and it boosts the self-esteem of students who may not have reached this confidence level otherwise.” This statement sums up one of the most fundamental purposes of the Anatomy in Clay® mission: To advance anatomy education and create success for both students and teachers alike. Mission accomplished.


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