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Poop Factory

In this activity, students learn about the digestive system by going through an obstacle course simulating the digestive tract.

You can use the materials listed, or materials you have on hand (and a little imagination) to represent the different parts of the digestive system:

  • Mouth: Where the tongue, teeth and saliva help to mechanically break down the food. The saliva also helps to chemically break down some carbohydrates at this point. The resulting mushed up food is called a bolus.
  • Esophagus and Epiglottis: The epiglottis prevents the bolus from entering the trachea (or "windpipe")and beinginhaled. The bolus is directed through the esophagus and into the stomach.
  • Stomach: Where the food is mixed with gastric juices, churned and mashed even further to pass into the intestines.
  • Intestines: The small intestine is where the pancreas and liver deliver juices to help break down fats and proteins and where the nutrients are passed into the blood. The large intestine then absorbs the last of the water and some minerals before the result is excreted from the system. An adult's small intestines measure nearly 7 meters.
  • ​Anus: Where your poop finally exits, several hours after food has entered your system.

Vocabulary:​

  • Bolus: The small amount of food that has been mashed by chewing and is ready to swallow.
  • Epiglottis: A valve-like structure that prevents food from entering the windpipe when eating and drinking.
  • Esophagus: Commonly called the “food pipe”, it carries food and water from the mouth to the stomach.
  • Trachea: A thin-walled, cartilaginous tube connecting the larynx to the bronchi; the windpipe.

Objectives

  • Describe the main stages of digestion.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    Skipping ropes
    2 laundry hampers, one with the bottom cut out to create a tunnel
    Baseball bat
    Traffic Cones
    Hula Hoop

Key Questions

  • What are the steps food takes through the digestive system?

What To Do

Set-up

​Lay out the objects as an obstacle course. Each student must complete the following steps through the course.

Play individually or put students in teams to see which team is the quickest to complete the course.

Game

  1. Jump 10 jumps with a skipping rope, simulating chewing.
  2. Choose between the two tunnels. If you hit the epiglottis (the basket with the bottom intact= blocked end), you must crawl out again and go through the correct tunnel to travel down the esophagus (basket with the bottom cut out).
  3. In the stomach (delineated by skipping ropes) place your forehead on the baseball bat and spin around 10 times to simulate churning of food in stomach juices.
  4. Weave through traffic cones (the intestines).
  5. Finally, burst through a hula hoop and become poop!

Extensions

  • How can you modify the course to represent more steps in the digestive system or more accurately represent the process of digestions?