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How the human body works

County middle schools explore anatomical functions

NOT ROCKET SCIENCE BUT CLOSE – Students from all over Hudson County get together each year to do a study on how the human body works.

Did you know that human beings actually have more than five senses?
“Actually there are 21 senses,” said seventh grader Nash Allen, who along with other teammates from around Hudson County presented the results of their three-month long research project into human sensory systems.
Laurie Ann Mufuta, Lorena Franco, Ana Carter, and Channel Cao teamed up to study and then explain the workings of senses in the human body during a one-day showcase on the human body held by Explore 2000 Middle School, a county public middle school, on March 28.
Cao said although people are familiar with the five senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing, there are other senses that people are less aware of, especially those associated with internal functions of the body.
The students learned that though senses use the nervous system to signal the brain, each uses its own method for translating physical sensations into nerve impulses.
Cao noted that the eye uses photo sensory cells to translate visual stimuli, while the tongue makes use of taste buds, while hearing uses tiny hairs in the inner ear.
Part of their presentation included preventable injuries, like using head phones instead ear buds to listen to music from digital music devices, using sunglasses against bright light to protect the eyes, blinking often to keep the eyes moist, and to quit smoking to reduce injury to taste buds.
Their studies also included common health issues and diseases that affect hearing and sight.
Franco also ran off a lot of fun facts, such as the average time of a blink (one tenth of a second), how eyes tend to heal quickly from minor injuries (within 48 hours), how nasal cavities in the nose also form the roof of the mouth, and the 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds on the human tongue.
The students said research for the project took the longest, though most of the visual presentation took less than a week. The larger than life eye presented some issues and had to be done several times before they were happy.
To some degree, the project helped further each of the student’s potential career choices, teaching them how to research as well as other skills they might need in the future.
“This fits with what I will need to become a veterinarian,” Franco said.
Allen said the science aspect of the project will help with his aim to become an engineer someday.
Mufuta said she is caught between becoming a performer and a doctor, although her presentation showed she would likely excel at both. She said a study of how the senses work fits in with her wish to become a neurosurgeon.
Carter said she would like to pursue a career in Zoology.

An annual event

Called a community health fair, the annual event is put on by Explore 2000 Middle School and features students from around Hudson County who work in teams to help understand the functions of the body.
Explore 2000 is a unique kind of middle school within the Jersey City campus of the Hudson County Schools of Technology on Montgomery Street that uses a project-based method of education. HCST is a group of county-run public schools open to students who apply from throughout the county. They also run the competitive High Tech High School in North Bergen.
Explore 2000 is a middle school and stepping stone for students from around Hudson County who may wish to apply to High Tech High later.
In Explore 2000, students learn Core Curriculum subjects by developing projects and through intense study of a particular subject, such as the environmental impact of pollution, or how the human body works.
The middle school has expanded from an original smaller location on Montgomery Street to include a new one on Ninth Street in downtown Jersey City. The new location will allow the student population in the program to grow from the slightly more than 50 students to possibly as many as 250.
Explore 2000 has been holding annual health Expo for many years, but this is the first at its new location.
“This is largely the same event we held at our Montgomery Street campus, but much larger here,” said Principal Amy Lin-Rodriguez. She said students learn through completing various activities, and the project allows them to learn through research and field experience, then explain their projects to people who attend the expo.

A different kind of learning

Although the expo highlights particular studies, it largely reflects the kind of teaching Explore 2000 engages in. Teachers there are known as facilitators because they help students learn and investigate new information. Field trips related to subjects allow them to seek information beyond the walls of the schools.
Even during the rest of the year, groups of students work as teams, collectively deciding on what subjects to pursue, with each student taking responsibility to gather information in one aspect. When they come back together, they present a larger, more complete picture of the area of study.
They work together on different aspects of the presentation, developing their own displays, talking points, even their own cartoons to highlight the process.
Each student said they learned something that surprised them or that they hadn’t thought of.
The study areas included every function of the human body: outlining each system, what its functions are and how these can malfunction, and how these systems interact with other systems.
The philosophy of Explore 2000 is that kids learn best by doing, and that by giving them a project along with a stimulating environment, they will learn better.
While it differs in approach, it is still consistent with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards utilizing thematic, hands-on, student-centered interdisciplinary activities and accelerated learning based on real-life context.
Each students’ learning style is assessed to determine the appropriate course of study.
Explore 2000 investigates, in depth, a total of nine thematic units over a three-year period that include outer space, the human body, living oceans, environmental threats, a study of the 20th century, amazing animals, freedom fighters, ancient civilizations, and natural wonders of New Jersey.

A real lesson in life

Jannanh Vendary, a sixth grader, took on a solo project which on the surface seemed simple, but was not. Her project was a study of the human body’s biggest organ: the skin.
This delved into the three layers of skin as well as the oil and sweat glands. She came up with a number of fun facts of her own, such as the thickest part of skin is on the feet, and that skin accounts for almost 50 percent of the body’s total weight.
“Tattoos can be harmful,” she said. “Many people think they are above top layer of skin, but they are really beneath it.”
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“What surprised me is the fact that people don’t catch cancer. It’s in the body the whole time.” – Huda Fatima
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Skin, she said, changes color in response to certain conditions; many people blush red or react to cold by having their skin turn blue, or have their skin turn yellow as a result of illness.
Huda Fatima, also a sixth grader, took on the challenge of the body’s respiratory system, although she said she did not want to discuss many of the potential diseases.
“I’m really not comfortable talking about them,” she said, though he spoke briefly about asthma, in which phlegm builds up in the air passages, and some smoking-related diseases.
She said the heart helps pump oxygen-rich air into the body and helps the lungs expel air heavy with carbon dioxide. To demonstrate this, he constructed a working model that used a soda bottle, straw and balloons.
“What surprised me is the fact that people don’t catch cancer,” she said. “It’s in the body the whole time.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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