Across Whitfield’s academic program, students develop critical thinking and collaboration, and learn to draw connections and conclusions from information. In anatomy and physiology class, instead of simply memorizing all the muscles and bones in the human body, students define problems, plan and carry out investigations, collect, analyze and interpret data, and engage in the scientific argument based on evidence.
As part of their study of the muscular system, students recently conducted experiments using an EKG sensor to measure electrical activity generated by chewing. The young scientists practiced this rote activity, observing how different foods influence the strength of contraction in the masseter muscle of the jaw. In addition, they examined the effect of muscle fatigue on muscle action by performing repetitive isometric contractions of muscles of the arm and hand using a Vernier Dynamometer.
“The focus of these labs is on data collection and analysis,” said faculty member Carrie Wilson Herndon. “What the students are doing now is establishing the foundation for the research projects they will work on during the third trimester.”
Students are designing their research projects based on topics they are interested in exploring including studying the impact of sports injuries on neuromuscular function and how listening to different types of music while studying affects brain activity. As an example, two students want to design prosthetic legs for dogs and hope to work with a veterinarian and an actual ‘client dog’ and its family. They will make the prosthetic using Whitfield’s 3D printers.
“What I want to see is that the students take ownership for their projects,” said Wilson Herndon. “I don’t believe that the best way for students to learn is to sit and listen to me lecture and read out of their textbook. When they are conducting research on a project they are interested in, it’s a more meaningful and authentic experience.”