Students wanting to get into the nursing program at Temple College must have taken and passed, with pretty good grades, Anatomy and Physiology I and II prior to applying for a spot.
Wendy Armstrong, associate professor of biology at TC, is teaching Anatomy and Physiology I this semester and readily admits it’s a hard class.
Armstrong tries to engage the students in between lectures, coming up with a game they can participate in as they learn the different bones that keep us upright, give us mobility and enable us to hold a pen.
Recently, during the lab portion of the class, students worked in groups to name the different bones in the hand, foot, leg and skull, answering questions along the way. Armstrong will verify the efforts if the team has assembled the correct bones and answered the questions correctly before they move on to the next set.
In lab it’s all memorization and repetition, she said.
“You just have to do it and it’s hard, but if we play games its fun and the groups get extra credit points, the number depending on which group completes the tasks the quickest,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong started the semester with 24 students, but at least two have dropped since then.
“I think some students jump in thinking ‘I want to be a nurse,’” she said. “They get in here and discover it’s hard and they aren’t ready.”
Many are freshman and haven’t developed good study skills. Most think they have some knowledge about the human body, and they do, but not at the level required for an anatomy class.
Humans are born with about 270 bones, but once some fuse together early on, they end up with 206. There are 27 bones in the hand: scaphold, triquetral, pisiform and hamate, to name a few.
Students are required to know the names of each bone, and the dips and valleys of those bones have names as well. During the game each bone had a letter assigned to it.
When the group identifies the bones they unscramble the letters which spell out the name of a particular bone, which the group then finds and presents to Armstrong. The game continues until they have completed identifying the bones assigned by Armstrong.
“On the second day of class in A&P I we play ‘Pictionary,’” Armstrong said.
The students are given a task card. They can use their book, they can Google it, or use whatever they have, but they have to draw it on the board with no labels.
“As a classroom we try to figure out what they’ve drawn,” she said.
An escape room game was used to identify tissue.
The classes held before a scheduled test will include some type of game. There’s nervous system bingo and a blind spot game.
There are fewer games in A&P II, Armstrong said, because the students already know it’s going to be hard and they’ve learned how to study.
In A&P II, doughnuts glazed in red and pink icing, some with sprinkles, some without, are used to learn blood types. Scavenger games help identify veins.
Many of the faculty who teach the sciences believe lecturing on its own isn’t the way to teach complex courses. However, not all games are successful.
“Anything that I can come up with that’s hands-on is helpful, because there’s no dissection in the class,” she said.
The students are encouraged to keep lab notebooks that include case studies and information on what they’re learning, including information on blood flow, the respiratory system and more.
“I’m old-fashioned in that I think if you don’t write it down or don’t draw it you won’t learn it,” Armstrong said.
In a notebook she randomly selected from the shelf there was a drawing of a tooth.
“I think that’s a lymph node,” she guessed as she flipped the page.
If they’re working on the notebook they’re working as a group and talking about it, Armstrong said.
The group that won the lab activity, which included Paul Brockenbush, Pearl Waza and Melissa Wininger, had come in second during the previous competition.
Waza said working as a group has helped her. What she doesn’t know, someone else will.
“We keep practicing and we mentor each other,” Waza said.
The bone models look different from the drawings in the text book. The hands-on work is a huge help.
Waza is in her first year at TC and her goal is to become a nurse.
Brockenbush is back in college after a 27-year break, working toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
His first career was in the oil and gas industry, working much of the time as chief electrician on an offshore drill rig.
Armstrong was asked if she takes off points for spelling. If it’s spelled incorrectly, yes, the student loses points.
The ilium is the largest part of the hip bone, the ileum is the third part of the small intestine. The names are pronounced the same, spelled slightly different and mixing them up could be catastrophic.
Brockenbush develops mnemonic devices to learn the different parts of the bone. One being “tiger cubs need milk.”
“You do whatever you can to learn all of this,” he said.