HAPS Teaching Tip: Anatomical Poetry

A message from Polly Husmann, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches anatomy to medical, graduate, and undergraduate students.
A message from Polly Husmann, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches anatomy to medical, graduate, and undergraduate students.

Inspired by the works of Allan Wolf (2003) and the HAPS annual meeting Synapse presentation of Judi Nath (2016), I wanted to encourage more creativity, and especially poetry, in anatomy.  Thus, in the Fall of 2016, I decided to give an extra credit assignment to my undergraduate anatomy students.

The Course
Anatomy A215: Basic Human Anatomy is a large (400+) undergraduate anatomy class most commonly taken by students that are interested in allied healthcare.  Many of these students have never taken an anatomy class before and may not feel that science is truly their forte’.  The course includes three fifty-minute lectures and two two-hour labs per week for a total of five credit hours.  The course has a total of eight hundred points available and is assessed using four multiple choice examinations for lecture and four examinations with short-answer identification questions for lab.  There are also ten online quizzes, also in multiple choice or matching format.  As such, there is very little room for more creative thought processes.  In addition, twenty points of extra credit are offered each semester.  Sixteen of these are given based on online practice assignments (also multiple choice or matching) that deal with each chapter of the book.  The remaining four extra credit points are then left at the instructor’s discretion.

The Assignment
For two of the discretionary extra credit points, I assigned my students to write a poem.  For the content of the poem, the students were given two options: 1) their favorite anatomical structure or region or 2) a reflective poem on their experience in anatomy.  The poem had to be an original work and was required to be at least eight lines in length.  Rhyming scheme (including presence or absence) was completely up to the student.  They were given ten days to complete the assignment (including the Thanksgiving break) and could turn in via either an e-mail or a hard copy of their poem prior to class.  Ultimately, 207 students turned in a poem.  The following poems are examples of the submissions for this assignment and, I believe, demonstrate the enthusiasm that some students show when given the opportunity to express their creativity (even when only a few points are offered in return!).  Next week we’ll share more!

The Chip I Digested
By Quaniqua Finley
When I ate the first chip
I knew it would be a trip
Down my esophagus, it felt like a rip
I should’ve known better when it burnt my lip
I tried to get some water, just needed a sip
I hopped around the table and through the door
When it ripped my throat, I fell to the floor
Grabbing my stomach the pain made me want no more
Churning and churning mixing about
After absorption I finally got the urge to push it out
What a relief, glad it wasn’t slow
Never again will I eat a Hot Cheeto

Epithelium
By Kyle Doyle
Its purpose is to line.
It is simple or stratified.
It often contains projections that are very fine.
Or it might even be keratinized.
It can absorb and secrete,
Or it can block like a barrier and part ‘em.
Such an incredible feat,
The numerous roles of epithelium.

Do you have a teaching tip you’d like to share?  You can do it here.


Nath, Judi. 2016. “More Than You Bargained For: RAAS and the Transcending Role of ACE Inhibitors.” In Annual Meeting of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society. Atlanta, Georgia.

Wolf, Allan. 2003. The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts (Candlewick Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts).

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