Scrappy introduces human anatomy to preschoolers

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on March 31, 2010

Menlo Park resident Ralph Miller with Scrappy

There’s something about Scrappy. Maybe it’s his helmet skull or modified bird cage rib cage or salad bowl pelvis. Or the fact that you can inflate his heart and lungs with a hand pump or squeeze rubber balls through his inner tub intestines. Whatever it is, it’s gotten the attention of  preschoolers thanks to the creative efforts of  Menlo Park resident Ralph Miller, who teaches at the Early Learning Center at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.

Miller assembled Scrappy from every day materials to promote hands-on learning. “As a fledgling preschool teacher I was challenged with introducing young children to the marvels of their bodies,” he says. “Ongoing brainstorming, scrounging and assembly efforts resulted in a piece that appealed both to the children’s senses and their drive to explore through play.”

Scrappy has proved to be hit as a free choice activity, but Miller also uses his creation as a teaching tool. For example, he has his students feel the bones inside their bodies and then maps Scrappy to a plastic skeleton, examining isolated bones. Human joints are compared to hinges, ball joints and other hardware. A lesson can conclude by singing songs like Dem Bones and the Hokey Pokey.

Miller and Scrappy are entries in the PBS Teachers Innovation Awards. The judging panel will select the top 50 out of a current 700 entries, according to the contest rules, but the public is invited to vote between now and May 3 for the Teachers Choice. You can show your support for Scrappy and Miller here.

Photo by Chris Gulker

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