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

Posted by: ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System | Posted on: November 4th, 2013 | 0 Comments

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.

Featured Educator Phillip Thielemann: Teaching Animal Science Beyond Cows, Plows and Sows

Posted by: ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System | Posted on: September 12th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Thielemann (left) and students working with the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System

Thielemann and students working with the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System

When Instructor Phillip Thielemann talks about this work in the Advanced Animal Science department, he can barely contain his enthusiasm. He excitedly declares, “We are recognizing that animal science has far more dividends than just teaching about cows, plows and sows! Animal science is an important area and when taught in context, it helps solve real world problems and create jobs.”

Many students take the course at the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District (ISD) in Rosenberg, Texas to fulfill their fourth year science credit for Livestock Production, Small Animal Management or Vet Tech Majors. Some students choose the class as an elective because they simply find it so interesting.

Amazingly, 98% of students from the school go on to community or four-year colleges where they focus on allied health careers such as pediatric nursing or veterinary programs. Others continue on to agricultural careers, in line with their upbringing as many of them grew up on farms and ranches or love to be around animals.

As part of the school district’s Career and Tech Education (CTE) curriculum that Thielemann has been teaching for 13 years, he knows firsthand the far-reaching applications of the animal science program. It’s become more popular to students and parents alike, as they see that the skills students gain prepare them for meeting the needs of the global economy.

The Animal Science program incorporates the ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System for teaching horse and dog anatomy, originally introduced into the curriculum by Traci Holub, Director of CTE, Lamar CISD. With twelve CANIKEN® models and eight EQUIKEN® models available for teaching in parallel, Thielemann says “It’s the best of both worlds. For example in regards to muscles, students can see the point of origin, insertion and action for both species. This opportunity to compare and contrast encourages independent exploration.”

Thielemann states that the learning system also satisfies the mission statement of the Career and Tech Ed department, which is posted on the wall of each classroom and reads:

To educate students by providing rigorous curriculum and technical skills through real world, hands-on learning, thus preparing them for the challenges of evolving career environments and opportunities.

Beyond just clay-building the muscles, the students also learn about shapes, movement, and other aspects of anatomy, such as the circulatory system. “When they find that a certain vein or artery has to go through a muscle it can be agonizing, but it sure helps them understand the detail. Anything hands-on is better than a power-point, book or a diagram.”

Director Holub says the introduction of the CANIKEN® and EQUIKEN® models adds a new dimension to the Animal Science program. She sees students working in groups and engaging in effective learning with a tool that aids them in the complex instructional area of anatomy. She notes, “Our teachers serve as facilitators, challenging the students with hands-on development of their model in clay.” In the near future, she hopes to purchase the human MANIKEN® models for use in the Anatomy & Physiology classes.

Using the models has enabled faculty to spend less time lecturing and more time working directly with students. It also provides a cost-effective addition to the curriculum because it reduces the need to repeatedly order animals for dissection. Thielemann shares, “Now, we typically do just one dissection a year. If you take care of the models and store them properly as well as take care of the clay, you will be able to use them year after year, which really offers strong savings.”

The passionate instructor sums it up by saying, “Once the students start putting muscles on to the skeleton, they can put it all together. Building in clay allows them to remember trapezius or humerus. And after several builds it becomes second nature. What was fearful, no longer is. That is the glue that helps it stick in their brains.”

Q & A with Marie-Michelle Faber / Cirque de Soleil

Posted by: zsi | Posted on: August 29th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Marie-Michelle Faber began artistic gymnastics at the age of five and quickly developed elite skills.

Captivated by her sport, she devoted herself for 12 years to deepen her knowledge and agility.  A small jump in high diving allowed her to discover a new dimension of spatial orientation—dropping head first into the water!

Twisting, jumping and flipping between air and ground have enabled her to acquire courage, determination, perseverance, concentration and a finely tuned control of her body movements.

Since 1998, Marie-Michelle has performed as an aerialist specialist with the prestigious and well-known circus company, Cirque du Soleil.  She performs an average of 400 shows per year, 8 to 10 shows per week.

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Being an aerialist is a risky job that requires mental focus, precision, accurate movements and a healthy body, as well as the ability to manage fatigue, stress, discomfort, excitement and pain.

Her circus career has been a journey of fulfilling learning and constant discoveries of the control and mastery of one’s body, emotions and thoughts.

Aside from circus, she received private training and formation by Guru Senthil Kumar (Ph.D) in traditional Ashtanga Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in Coonoor, India. She has also received specific formations in Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark and recently in Prenatal Yoga with Clare Newman.

With her dedication and creative spirit, Marie-Michelle worked in collaboration with co-founder Geneviève Bérubé. Together they have developed a new training method combining Aerial Arts with Yoga & Pilates called: AIR Yogalates.  AIR Yogalates is a creative training method that combines yoga, pilates and aerial arts, using a type of hammock suspended between 1 and 3 feet off the ground. It executes movements in suspension with or without contact with the ground and in inversion.

Earlier this year, Marie-Michelle Faber spent time in Denver with her Cirque de Soleil troupe.  As a mother-to-be, she wasn’t performing in the thrilling show “Amaluna,” but she took time to attend a workshop at the Formative Haptics Center in Denver. The workshop focused on female reproductive physiology.

Following the workshop, Marie-Michelle was kind enough to answer a few questions about the workshop experience and working with the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System.

Question: As a Cirque de Soleil performer and athlete, what drew you to Anatomy in Clay® Learning System?

Marie-Michelle Faber: The Anatomy in Clay approach is as much artistic and creative as it is informative, which, as a physical performer is an intuitive way to learn. Building with clay is definitely a great way to strengthen your knowledge of anatomy. I feel that we are able to reveal layers of knowledge just as you study and reveal the layers of the body with the clay-building system.

MM AIR Yogalates

Question: When and how did come across Anatomy in Clay and what did you think when you first learned about it?

Marie-Michelle Faber: I’ve been trying for quite some time (years) to catch a workshop with Anatomy in Clay, but with my busy schedule as an artist with Cirque de Soleil it became the biggest puzzle of my life!  Well this year finally happened! Yay!!! I was so excited!


Question: What do you see as the advantage of learning through clay-building approach?

Marie-Michelle Faber: Learning this way offers the advantage of allowing you to both simultaneously see and do.  It allows you a detailed glimpse into the complexity of our bodies.  It gives a new and different perspective of the complex maps and routes of your body.


Question: Why is it important for athletes to understand how anatomy comes together and how it functions?

Marie-Michelle Faber: When anatomy is introduced into your practice, it’s a way to nourish the mind-body connection with your breath. It is essential to have good bio-mechanical knowledge for high performance success.


Question: From your experience working with the system, what are the benefits of building parts of the anatomy with your own hands?

Marie-Michelle Faber:  Learning through your own hands makes you ask yourself more questions about your own body! It’s a great way to keep your mind active in connection with your body.


Question: What did you learn from the recent workshop on the female pelvis?

Marie-Michelle Faber: Well as a ”mama to be” very soon, this specific workshop attracted my attention deeply and because the moment of giving birth is ONE BIG EVENT in a woman’s life. Knowing how your pelvis is structured, where ligaments, nerves, blood vessels and muscles are located, helps you understand the movements and range of motion you have as well as the space carrying all those organs inside you!


Question: The Anatomy in Clay Learning System tag line is “the mind cannot forget what the hands have learned.”  Have you found that to be true?

Marie-Michelle Faber:  Of course! I could say your brain in your hands!


Question: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your experiences with Anatomy in Clay?

Marie-Michelle Faber: I would certainly recommend taking workshops and classes with the Anatomy in Clay system. Jon Zahourek is a passionate and incredibly giving teacher.  His team is there to support you all along. Thank you for the memorable experience!


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