Would you be ready?

Imagine that while preparing those last few materials for the start of the semester you receive a call from Disability Support Services indicating that you will have a student with total blindness in your A&P class. The semester begins in two days.

Would you be ready?

To be accessible for students with disabilities, here are some things you can address:

  • PowerPoint slides need to have high contrast between the background and font colors. The reading order of each slide must be verified, and font sizes should be at least 24 point. Additionally, all visuals must have Alternative Text (aka Alt Text or Alt Tags). Alternative Text is a description that enables an individual with a visual impairment to learn what a sighted person would learn from the image. However, they should not be so detailed as to further increase the amount of time the student would need to acquire the information. Alt Tags for STEM images may require two parts.
  • Word documents must be written in a sans-serif font and be organized with headers. Tables require a repeating header and an Alt Tag. Further, because screen readers pronounce non-printing characters, the document shouldn’t have unnecessary spaces or tabs. If you don’t know what it sounds like to hear text verbalized by a screen reader, listen to Accessible vs. Inaccessible.
  • The physical laboratory space must accommodate students with disabilities, and there must be accessible versions of the lab materials and equipment. Institutions should have policies regarding guide dogs and students requiring wheelchairs and scooters in the science laboratory. A discussion on preparing for students with disabilities in the science lab would require a separate blog post. In the meantime, my website has a link to a study I conducted in 2016 evaluating accommodations provided for students with visual impairments in college biology laboratories. It contains information on accommodations for science labs, and those which study participants found helpful and not so helpful.
  • Textbooks are another consideration. Publishers are working toward full accessibility, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done. Check with the publisher about your textbook’s accessibility. Ask a lot of questions. Some publishers honestly believe they have accessible versions of their texts, when in fact they do not.

Several resources exist to help create accessible course materials. I maintain a website, Accessible Science, that has numerous resources on accessibility and other information you may find useful. Newer versions of Microsoft® Office have built-in accessibility checkers, PC Accessibility Checker and Mac Accessibility Checker, that scan for accessibility issues and indicate how to fix any problems they identify. PowerPoint Accessibility and Screen Reader Accessibility in Word demonstrate how to create accessible PowerPoint slides and documents.

New courses should be developed according to the tenets of Universal Instructional Design (UID), which recommends that accessibility be integrated into courses as they are developed. Adhering to the principles of UID helps students even if you never have a student with a disability in your class. Foreign language students benefit from subtitles on videos, for example, and larger font sizes on PowerPoint slides benefit students seated farther from the screen.

For existing courses, it takes an incredible amount of time to retrofit a laboratory science class so that it is fully accessible. Since increasing numbers of students with disabilities are attending college, my suggestion is to start preparing now so you don’t panic when you get that call. Feel free to email me if I can help.

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Dr. Barbara R. Heard is an associate professor of biology at a community college in NJ. She is interested in supporting students with disabilities in science, especially students with visual disabilities.

Pre-Med Summer Camp for Middle Schoolers… Third Time is the Charm!

Dani 3

For the last three summers, I have been developing and hosting a summer camp for middle school kids about medicine. They are doctors for the week, solving medical mysteries, learning about diseases, and diagnosing patients, all while learning basic anatomy and physiology. Many of the activities that I created for the kids are watered down (or not so watered down) versions of the lab activities our undergraduate students do. So far, we have concluded that the kids LOVE it, and it is only getting better with time.

The first time I ran this camp it was a bit… chaotic behind the scenes. The second time was a little less so, and this third time was smooth sailing. If I could write a letter to myself three years ago, there would be some important pieces of advice I would want to know. Since time travel is still ahead of us I thought I would share these little pieces of wisdom. Hopefully I can help someone out there in the HAPS universe that is thinking of starting a camp for kids!

Dani 2

First, do not underestimate how excited the kids are to be in this camp. There is very little you could do to squish that enthusiasm out of them! So do not feel that you need to razzle dazzle them with these huge experiments for each activity. One simple activity I designed is called “Making Poop.” Campers use saltine crackers, a plastic sandwich bag, and different colored water (the digestive enzymes!) to act out how your body digests and breaks down food. At the end,  we have poop! Very basic, and the overall cost is pennies per camper. I designed this activity for our smallest campers, those entering 5thgrade in the new year. The older campers got much more advanced activities that had them working with real biomolecules, chemicals, and enzymes to learn how starch, lipids, and proteins are broken down. I heard such a fuss at the end of the day because my older campers (those entering 7thand 8thgrade) did not get to “make poop”.

Second, organization is key. During the first summer, my office looked like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a paper supply store! It was a nightmare. This year I used big brown envelopes from our department’s mail room to sort and organize all the handouts that I had created for the campers. Then, each handout envelope was placed in the large plastic tub that stored the materials for each day’s activities. Taking the time a few days to a week before camp and sorting the materials and handouts by the day made things so simple.

Dani 1

Last, science is an explorative field, and to truly appreciate this can take time. Rushing the kids through a dozen activities may feel like they are getting a lot out of the day, but watching them take their time on fewer activities and uncovering their interests is far better. I want to help them develop that curiosity for science and the bits and pieces going on inside of their own bodies. The bonus is that you don’t have to write a dozen activities for each day, so that’s a win-win.

You can check out the YouTube video of this year’s camp here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNsCBUXcmCM&feature=share

 

Dani 

Dani Waters is a first year PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State University. She has a M.S. in Biology where she focused on anatomy and physiology content. Dani teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology at Penn State University.

HAPS blog: Behind the scenes

We skipped introductions to bring you a fun pre-semester challenge last week, but there are some new faces running the HAPS Communication Committee and blog.

Up first, Communications Committee Chair, Melissa Clouse:

Clouse

Hello all!  I would like to beg a few minutes of your time to briefly introduce myself.  My name is Melissa Clouse and I am an Instructor of Practice and the Director of Pre-Health Programs at Doane University, located in Crete, Nebraska.  I have been a HAPS member for about two years, and am continually blown away by this amazing group of educators.  I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the Communications Committee at my first HAPS conference (in Salt Lake City).  Following my introduction to the HAPS community I couldn’t believe that there were so many people interested in exactly the same things I thought were fascinating…..so I almost couldn’t resist finding a way to provide some time and energy to the organization.

Recently, I was asked to step into the ComCom Chair position.  Although I’m a bit daunted to attempt to follow the exceptional leadership of Wendy Riggs, I know firsthand how supportive our members are so I am confident that we can continue ComCom’s great work.  I thrilled that I will continue to work closely with Wendy as she steps into the Secretary role.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the inner workings of HAPS….it’s an organization that makes my teaching and professional life better in so many ways, and I especially look forward to working with respected fellow HAPSters.

Up next, blog master, Ann Raddant:

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Howdy, HAPSters! I’ll be soliciting posts and working with our fabulous crew of editors to keep the blog looking fresh all year. I joined HAPS in 2013 when I was still a Ph.D. student, and I have found my membership to be so valuable through every step of my career. My day job is lecturing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Go Panthers!) and my night and weekend job is my 1.5 year old son, Hudson. I am excited to be able to contribute to an organization that helps me better a better instructor in so many ways.

Do you want to see yourself and your ideas on the HAPS blog? IT’S SO EASY!!  We need posts that are 200-500 word, preferably with pictures (and captions), a short author bio and picture.  Then, just email your submission to HAPSblog@hapsconnect.org.  We will take care of the rest, and you will bask in the warmth that can only come by sharing your experiences/wisdom/tips/ideas with like-minded HAPSters!!

 

 

 

Starting on a high note: a first-week-of-fall A&P challenge

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of an oddball.

To many A&P instructors, music is a tool for learning about the auditory system (Ganesh et al. 2016) or adjusting students’ moods (Anyanwu 2015, Modell et al. 2009, Weinhaus & Massey 2015), or a metaphor for the learning process (Modell 2018).  These are valid, reasonable ideas.  But for me, odd duck that I am, music is mostly a mechanism for teaching science content.  If you can imagine a version of Schoolhouse Rock with really short songs written and performed by amateurs for undergraduate audiences (Crowther et al. 2015), you have the general idea.

There are many reasons why I do this, some well-rooted in research and others less so.  Content-rich lyrics can condense some material into concise, memorable phrases.  Such lyrics can be interrogated to make their meaning clearer, somewhat in the manner of an English class dissecting a poem.  And singing about content with your students is a good way to convey that you care deeply about their mastery of it, and that scientists are human beings too.

STEM Biology Gregory Crowther

If any of these ideas resonate with you, consider the following a friendly challenge for the fall. Are you ready?

  1. Identify and write down the 1-5 most important overall themes that you will emphasize in your course.
  2. Write a short song or rap introducing your students to those themes. If you are not musically inclined — or even if you are — collaborate with a spouse, colleague, previous student, or me to create the best piece that you can. (Here is an example of such a song: http://faculty.washington.edu/crowther/Misc/Songs/blessing.shtml.)
  3. Perform it live for or with your students on the first day of class.
  4. Facilitate a class discussion of what the lyrics mean. (Sample study questions for the song mentioned above are listed toward the bottom of the web page listed above.)
  5. Leave a comment to let me know how this went for you!
  6. Revisit your song at the end of the fall for further reinforcement and reflection.

What about those of you in the “silent majority” who are not quite ready to serenade your students, but are curious about this form of teaching and learning?  Well, consider attending VOICES (https://www.causeweb.org/voices/2018/program) on Sept. 26.  It’s a one-day online conference devoted entirely to teaching STEM subjects via songs.  And it only costs $10!  Is that music to your ears, or what?

 

References

E.G. Anyanwu (2015). Background music in the dissection laboratory: impact on stress associated with the dissection experience. Advances in Physiology Education39(2): 96-101.

G.J. Crowther, K. Davis, L.D. Jenkins, and J.L. Breckler (2015).  Integration of math jingles into physiology courses.  Journal of Mathematics Education8(2): 56-73.

G. Ganesh, V.S. Srinivasan, and S. Krishnamurthi (2016). A model to demonstrate the place theory of hearing. Advances in Physiology Education40(2): 191-193.

H.I. Modell, F.G. DeMiero, and L. Rose (2009).  In pursuit of a holistic learning environment: the impact of music on the medical physiology classroom.  Advances in Physiology Education33(1): 37-45.

H. Modell (2018). Jazz as a model for classroom practice. HAPS Educator22(2): 165-170.

A.J. Weinhaus and J.S Massey (2015).  Pre-lecture reviews with anatomy tunes.  HAPS Educator19(3): 35-38.

 

Dr. Greg Crowther teaches anatomy and physiology at Everett Community College (WA).  His peer-reviewed articles on enhancing learning with content-rich music have collectively been cited over 100 times.

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ComCom Hot Potato

This post comes from the Communications Committee Talking Points Coordinator, Dr. Krista Rompolski of Drexel University.


The HAPS Annual Conference is less than a week away. I told my students the other day that for an A&P professor, this is Woodstock. They didn’t quite understand, but I’m sure you all do! This is the one event of the year where we can share our unbridled enthusiasm about the human body with people who feel the same, and don’t mind if you talk dissection over dinner.

The Communications Committee is always seeking ways to connect members and non-members with HAPS. As a fun way to keep us connected during the conference days, the ComCom has a special activity to share! Look out for this notebook circulating on the conference floor:

Look for this notebook in Ohio- add your thoughts and doodles, then get a chance to WIN IT on Monday afternoon!
Watch for this notebook in Ohio- add your thoughts and doodles, then get a chance to WIN IT on Monday afternoon!

Think of this as the ComCom version of “hot potato.” I will start passing this notebook around during the social on Saturday evening. Here are the rules:

  1. Keep the notebook for no longer than one hour (if you have it in your possession after 10pm, keep it safe until the following morning).
  2. Using one or two pages, do one of the following:
    • Share a story about how HAPS changed your life in some way
    • Share a best or worst moment in teaching
    • Share a teaching tip; this could be your best advice, or something specific, like a drawing
  3. Include your name, and where you are from. If you would agree to have your contribution shared in the conference wrap up publication, please put an asterisk after your name. I will take some photos of the submissions with asterisks and share those in a conference wrap-up blog post!
  4. If you get the notebook and don’t want to participate, please randomly pass it along. But please pass it to someone you don’t know! We want to connect new HAPSters!

On Monday afternoon, whoever has the notebook at 4pm should return it to me, where the door prize drawings will be taking place. If those directions change due to conference timing or needs, I’ll indicate that in the front of the notebook. One lucky HAPSter will be randomly selected from the door prize pool to go home with this fun collection of HAPS memories/tips/stories!

I can’t wait to see what we come up with, and what we have to share! See you all in May!

Making the Sausage: Revising the HAPS Bylaws in 2018

This year the HAPS board has focused on clarifying our financial instruments and has completed a top-to-bottom review of our policies, procedures, and bylaws.  This sort of work is detail oriented and can drag on, but is necessary for organizational efficiency. Some of the things that the board found during this process were surprising and some were reassuring.  All of the findings reaffirmed the fact that HAPS is in a strong financial position and is focused on ways to help members far into the future.

The proposed set of revisions to the bylaws will increase financial transparency, clear up some confusion about past donations, and improve financial management.  We’ll vote on these revisions at the Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio on May 29th, during the general membership meeting.

So what was reassuring about our finances?  HAPS has grown its donated funds from essentially zero in 2009 (when fundraising began) to nearly $120,000 today.  All these donated funds, and the interest generated from them, have been left untouched since at least 2013 to facilitate growth (HAPS has been funding scholarships out of the operating budget since 2013).  Now that we have a sizable nest egg, the next step is to create a management and spending plan that is both sustainable and prudent. Through the proposed bylaws revisions, the HAPS board has created a new committee to do just that – the HAPS Finances Committee will provide guidance to the board on the management of both donations and general savings.

So what was surprising?  Despite talk of a foundation for years, it turns out that no foundation was ever formally created – and apparently, that is a good thing! A foundation is an body that is formed around some problem or idea. A foundation is not specific to a single organization. For example, one might form a foundation to cure cancer and then give the foundation’s money to anyone working to cure cancer (not just to one institution).  Obviously, HAPS donors never intended to give money to HAPS only to have HAPS give that money to a separate foundation. The HAPS “foundation” was just a misunderstanding of the terms being used, but the idea of supporting HAPS via donations is alive and well.

So what is changing in the bylaws?  There are three main changes.

  1. First, we will be following the suggestions of our attorneys and removing article 17 from the bylaws.  This is the article that specifies a foundation and a bunch of other overly complex financial structures that HAPS does not need.
  2. Second, we will be establishing a restricted endowment to properly channel some past donations.
  3. And third, we will establish the aforementioned Finances Committee to advise the board on proper management of all HAPS funds.

If you’d like to brush up on some of those terms, check out the glossary in the “lots more info” tab in the 2018 conference app.

None of this is as exciting as HAPS Synapse! or any of the Update Speakers or workshops or posters, but governance has its place at an annual meeting.  Hopefully we’ll see you there!

Bodies for Science and Education: The Startling History

Many of us in HAPS have been fortunate to have learned human anatomy either by dissecting human specimens or by working with already dissected bodies. Many of us now teach students using human cadavers as the primary specimens for study in the lab. Beyond that, the anatomical knowledge of the general population results from investigations performed on dissected humans in the past. How many of us have ever considered where the dissected bodies came from? Probably very few; many of us can take for granted the present level of anatomical knowledge. Where these long-gone anatomists obtained their specimens never enters our conscious thought.

Early Asian anatomical art
Early Asian anatomical art

There is a rich history of human dissection dating back to before the start of the Christian era. There are references to human dissection, cadaver investigation, or funerary practices in Egypt, Persia, Babylonia and India that extend back in time over four thousand years. Even then a pattern emerges indicating that those with the least and those guilty of crimes bore the burden of serving as specimens for dissection. There was even a brief period shortly before the Christian era during which human vivisection was practiced on criminals in Egypt.

Over the span of time, bodies have come from multiple sources including debtors, societal outcasts, the mentally ill and strangers, recent unclaimed dead, anatomical oddities and even victims murdered specifically to serve as dissection specimens. Bodies obtained by  “entrepreneur” grave robbers throughout the Renaissance and continuing well into the nineteenth century in Europe and America were the primary supply of bodies for dissection, with bodies stolen from the easily accessed burial sites used by families with few or no real financial assets, and rarely if ever from the much more secure cemeteries of the rich and privileged.

Death mask cast of William Burke and a pocket book made from his skin; Burke was executed in 1828 for murdering people and delivering their bodies to medical school in Edinburgh.
Death mask cast of William Burke and a pocket book made from his skin; Burke was executed in 1828 for murdering people and delivering their bodies to medical school in Edinburgh.

During the nineteenth century in Europe, donation of bodies by family members became legal as a way for the poor to eliminate funeral expenses.  In Tasmania, genocide of the aboriginal population in less than a century largely benefited bone collectors back in England. In America, a booming business in the bodies of African slaves and freeborn blacks signaled another low point in this narrative.

Finally, the successful heart transplant performed in 1967 by Dr. Christian Barnard in South Africa triggered an increased interest in organ transplantation and the importance of organ and body donations. The result was the passage of the first Uniform Anatomic Gift Act in 1968, creating a sustainable system based largely on altruism to provide for both the needs of the transplant community and those of anatomy and medical education.

Hopefully this narrative that chronicles the thoughtless and often diabolical events of the past will spur those of us involved in anatomy and medical education to consider and appreciate the unwilling sacrifices of so many in the past that made the current state of anatomic knowledge possible. As educators, we should play a role in acknowledging, even briefly, this history to our students and the debt of gratitude we owe to so many who have been so wronged in the past.


Bill Perrotti is a HAPS President Emeritus and a professor at Pennsylvania State University.