What's hot in Science Software?

A look at Anatomy Programs for

Middle School Science Curriculums

by

Theresa Castillo Perkins de Kirven

Finding the right curriculum to use in your science classroom can be a challenging and time-consuming venture. With so many software programs available the choices can be overwhelming. Some offer fun educational games others are more technical. So how do you find the right program for your science classroom? First you need to determine your needs. Do you want a program which offers students 'edutainment' games or do you want to find a software which will help you teach the fundamentals?

To aide you in your quest for the right program, below are some highlights and drawbacks of software programs on the human body. The following features were considered in the evaluation of each program: graphics, user friendliness, information provided, programs ability to perform as a teaching tool in the classroom.

Body Scope divides the body into nine systems: Skeletal, Muscular, Circulatory, Respiratory, Nervous, Digestive, Urinary, Endocrine, and Reproductive. Taking the learner through a series of screens, Body Scope identifies parts of the body in simple language. The user can point to a specific body part and receive either the basic terminology or the scientific identification for that part. The user is also able to view the body part closeup.

The drawbacks of this software include that it is just too basic it does not demonstrate the integratedness between the parts of the anatomy and the systems of the human body. Though the body is organized into body systems, no explanation is provided on the functions or purpose of the systems, instead the explanations of body parts appears truncated from the system of which it is a member . In addition, the information box which appears in conjunction with the body part graphic does not automatically change as you point and click to other parts of the body. Therefore a user may need to have prior knowledge of body systems to change the information screen to the appropriate system. Other technical drawbacks include the loss of the screen whenever the arrow moves behind the screen. This feature is found in other software programs but it seems overly sensitive in this particular program.

Body Scope would be sufficient as an enrichment activity in your science classroom due to its basic features. It is not recommended by this user as the main teaching resource in the middle school science curriculum.

Inner Body Works by Tom Snyder Productions, is another software on the human body currently on the market. It offers the user a series of games on the human body. It is very elementary, therefore it may not be the software the middle school teacher is looking for as a main teaching component to the curriculum. It may perhaps, at its best, make a fun center activity for your classroom.

A.D.A.M. offers the user a dynamic audio/visual pictorial of the human body's systems. This program is quite advanced compared to its counterparts. It is gender and culturally sensitive, allowing the user to choose the gender and ethnicity of the body model. For those who are concerned with showing atomically correct human models, the option of a fig leaf overlay is provided to the user upon boot up.

The visual and audio explanations of this program make it the leader of human body software of all the software viewed by this writer. A strong teaching tool of body systems' functions, A.D.A.M. also offers students educational playtime with puzzles of particular body parts. In these puzzles, players are required to unscramble graphics of the heart, leg muscles and so on. At first, the puzzles can be a bit challenging but the software offers encouragement and motivation to stick with it and figure out the puzzle.

A.D.A.M. seemed to be the one of the leaders of the programs viewed. It offers the middle school science teacher a nice balance between scientific information, great graphics and fun.

3-D Body engages you from the moment you click the mouse: lively music and a rotating human model invite the user to explore the human body by a mere click of the mouse.

On screen directions make this software user friendly. As the mouse is moved up and down the body model, identification of the body part is given. An easy to use index is also provided to aid the user in locating specific ailments and body parts.

"Save the Patient" is one game the program offers. It takes takes the user through a virtual world of a hospital ward. The user is required to identify the ailment of a patient based on their complaints, but before they can diagnosis, they must first find the patient. As the user goes through a series of hallways and elevator terminals, the user finally finds herself in a room where she meets the patient and receives a list of ailments. Can you save the patient?

"Body Recall" is another game offered by this program. It is a basic matching/memory game very similar to the game "solitaire." Twelve cards appear face down on the screen, the user clicks on one revealing a particular body part; the player must then locate where the relating system is, clicking on various cards. Since cards are quickly turned back to the face down position, the player must recall where they have found relating body systems which match their card.

The games offer more in the way building new skills of dragging, clicking and memory recall than they do in reinforcing the scientific information on the human body. Like Body Scope, this software also requires prior knowledge of body systems, it takes the user through the parts of the body rather than through the systems of the body. One of the biggest drawbacks of this software is that it concentrates on medical conditions and treatments rather than on the body and its systems.

Science software is a wonderful enrichment into a science curriculum. They offer students

eye catching visuals and educationally interactive. Kids are motivated to become engaged and can't help but get caught up in the learning.