Greetings Museum of Health Care Friends! In light of ongoing efforts to limit the transmission of COVID-19, this activity has been modified from the original version for offsite, home use. (Normally, this activity is completed as part of the “Yum Yum Munch” education program offered at the Museum of Healthcare at Kingston.)
Students will apply their knowledge of body systems to reconstruct the four stages of the digestive system. Students will use this interactive exercise to explore how several organs interact to absorb nutrients vital to individual health from their daily dietary selections.
Pre-Activity: Are you really what you eat?
“You are what you eat!”
You’ve probably heard someone say that before, but do you think it’s true or untrue? If you think it’s true, you’d be right!
All food has something called nutrients, which your body uses to stay healthy and help it grow. Although, healthy foods have more nutrients than unhealthy foods, and the digestive system is the process that takes those nutrients from your food and makes sure they get stored in the right places in your body. If you follow the four-stage digestive system step by step, you can watch your food move all the way through your body.
Scientists call the first step of eating your food ingestion. In the next step, called digestion, your food is broken down into smaller pieces with physical mashing and chemicals that your body makes. The third step, called absorption, is when your body soaks up all of the nutrients into your bloodstream for your body to use to grow and stay healthy. The last step is called egestion or elimination. After your body gets all the nutrients it needs from your food, anything extra that’s leftover is called waste and leaves your body whenever you go to the bathroom.
We bet you usually use a few tools to eat your food. Maybe you use a fork, knife, spoon or your hands from time to time to eat a snack or meal. Did you know that your body has its own tools that it uses to soak up nutrients from your food and help your food flow through the digestive system? Here’s a few tools and what they do!
Mouth: The mouth uses teeth to mash up food, and saliva to break down chemicals in your food to make it mushy. The tongue pushes food to the back of your throat and eventually down to the stomach.
Saliva: This is the fancy word for spit. It’s made of water, chemicals and an enzyme that starts to break down food before it goes down to the stomach.
Stomach: The stomach is like a mixer, churning and mashing together all the small balls of food that came down the mouth into even smaller pieces.
Stomach Acid: This is a fluid in your stomach that uses chemicals instead of mashing to break down food into smaller pieces.
Small Intestine: This is where the broken-down food goes after the stomach. It absorbs most of the nutrients out of food and sends them into the bloodstream for the body to use.
Large Intestine: This is where all extra water is absorbed out of the leftover food, which is then turned into waste and eliminated in the toilet.
Activity: Create your own digestive system!
Find out if you really are what you eat! Come along on a tour through all four stages of the digestive system by following these seven steps. Use the supplies listed below to create your own digestive system along the way, and to find out what mushy gushy activities your body gets into after every meal you eat.
Supplies Your Will Need
- Orange Juice – Stomach Acid
- Water – Saliva
- Crackers or Bread – Food
- Banana – Food
- Large Bowl – Body
- 2 Plastic or Paper Cups – Large Intestine + Funnel
- Zip Lock Bag – Stomach
- 1 leg from a pair of tights – Small Intestine
1) The zip lock bag represents how our stomach swallows the food in our digestive system. Put the crackers or bread, and the banana into the bag.
2) Add the orange juice and water to the bag. The orange juice acts as the acid in our stomach, and the water acts as the saliva. Both stomach acid and saliva help to break down food in our stomach.
3) Close the zip lock bag shut and start to squash all of the food in the bag with your hands. Your hands act as the stomach walls mashing food together to break it down into small pieces. This makes the food easier to digest.
4) In the next step you will transfer the food from the stomach into the small intestines, or in this case, your tights. Put your tights in your large bowl to catch any liquids, then take your plastic cup and cut the bottom off to make a funnel. Slip your plastic cup, bottom end first, into the open end of your tights. This should make a funnel for your food to slide into the intestines easier.
5) Open your zip lock bag and carefully pour the food down your funnel and into the small intestines, (your tights). Keeping your tights in the bowl to catch any spills, use your hands to squeeze the food down the intestines to the opposite end of the tights. The liquid that is squeezed out of the intestines and into the bowl represents how all of the healthy nutrients we need to grow and stay energized get absorbed out of the small intestines and into the rest of the body.
6) The ball of hard food leftover at the end of the tights represents what happens to the food that we can’t digest after all of the healthy nutrients have been absorbed into the body. Using your scissors cut, a hole at the bottom end of your tights to let the leftover food leave the small intestine, and slide into the large intestine, (your leftover cup).
7) After you’ve made the hole in your tights, carefully put the bottom end of your tights into your other plastic or paper cup. Squeeze the leftover food out of your tights and into the cup, which represents the large intestine. Because our body has already absorbed all for the healthy nutrients that it needs for growth and energy, it doesn’t need the leftover food anymore. This food then becomes waste, and can only leave the body by travelling through the large intestine, and then being pushed out of the body by going to the toilet.
Put your thinking cap on!
Thanks for coming along this tour of the digestive system!
Think back to your favourite foods to eat. Do you think your body gets all the nutrients it needs for energy and growth from your favourite foods? Or do you think your favourite foods mostly end up in the waste pile after going through your digestive system?
Need some inspiration! Here are some historical examples!
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About the Authour
(Public Programs Assistant, Summer 2020)
Meaghan recently completed an undergraduate degree in history at Queen’s University, with plans to return to Queen’s in the fall to begin her Bachelor’s of Education! Her main areas of interest include the history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the history of psychiatric medicine. Meaghan’s experience of quarantine during the COVID19 pandemic has allowed her to expand her cooking skills, and discover the many hiking locations that Kingston and the surrounding region has to offer.