One of our topic units at Rivendell this year is Systems of the Body. This is a great unit to integrate into PE. Not only do our normal PE activities help strengthen all these systems—muscular, skeletal, circulatory and respiratory—but we can even simulate how they work.
The kids themselves, with nothing other than some cones, bean bags, balls and baskets, became the circulatory system, digestive system, nervous system and muscular/skeletal system.
In one simulation, the kids were red blood cells, carrying oxygen from the lungs, through the heart to the body, and returning with carbon dioxide.
We even learned some ways the system could break down: clogged arteries, lungs unable to provide oxygen due to disease or pollution, and even carbon monoxide poisoning. There are so many reasons to keep ourselves healthy!
Then we became different parts of the digestive system: mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and kids passed the “food” (balls) from one end to the other. Younger Kids got to be neurons, passing “messages” (balls again) relay-style from one to the other.
Then my favorite simulation, showing how bones, muscles and tendons work together to help us move. Muscles move the bones via connecting tendons. But because muscles can only contract, or pull, they need to work in pairs or groups.
We simulate this with scooters (bones), connecting ropes (tendons) and kids to pull (muscles). First we see how joints can move back and forth, like the knee or elbow. Then we add more muscle connections to see how joints like the shoulder or hip can move multiple directions.
These simulations give a very hands-on (bodies-on?) experience for how the systems of the body work.