Seventh Grade Physiology

The seventh grade physiology block takes some thought.  Most of the mothers I have spoken with who are homeschooling this grade are not comfortable just using Charles Kovacs’ book “Muscles and Bones” straight as is and moving through it, and there are not millions of resources available from a Waldorf perspective.  I am going to share with you what I did find and use, so you will not have to re-create the wheel when this block comes up.  I am including Christian resources as I am Christian, and I am sure you will find the resources that work for you!

First of all though, just like with any block, plan and think and dream for awhile. How do you feel about physiology?  How does this tie into the human being on a spiritual and emotional level (there are many more resources out there for the physical level!)  How does this tie into the four elements or your picture of spirituality of the human being?

How do you want to structure this block?   Do you want to include the eye and the ear in this block or work it in with physics or another block?  Do you want to save those subjects or other ones for eighth grade?  For my purposes, I pretty much used the outline that Dr. Rick Tan provided in his blog post.  So, I decided to cover digestion, circulation, respiration and human fertility/reproductive system.  Then I just had to figure out how to bring this from a purely physical, cut down  materialistic way found in most mainstream resources and bring it to the spiritual that fits into my home.

The main books I used were   “The Atlas of Human Anatomy” by Frank Netter and “Clinically Oriented Anatomy” by Keith Moore, which were books I had hanging around from when I was in physical therapy school (a purely physical perspective).  I also used Dr. Tan’s blog post as above, and also some of the resources on Waldorf Inspirations.   There are a few links embedded in different  sections below for more reading and preparation.   For reproduction, we will be using the resources from Dr. Rick Tan available through the Syrendell Etsy Shop, the book and some resources regarding friendship, intimacy and relationships available through the Orthodox Church.   I also looked carefully at drawing and modeling of the human and we practiced these skills every day as a “warm up” at the beginning of our Main Lesson.  There are great links on Pinterest regarding drawing eyes, lips, faces, and the body in perspective.  I would suggest you start there!

I started out with a picture of the threefold human being that ties in with our Christian home.  This obviously would not be done in a Waldorf School, but I felt it important in our home as a basic picture of the whole human being and as our anchor.  For those of you looking for what Kovacs has to say about this, there is a chapter about “The Threefold Human Being” in his book on page 75,  (another complaint I have about this particular Kovacs’ book is that I did not like the organization of it as this was on page 75 and I would have thought the whole human being would be the opening chapter),  but I found and used several Christian resources about the body, soul, spirit and nous – including a pictorial representation.   We can also talk about nous, logos and spirit (love).  More about that   in this Orthodox link..   Many sites within the  Orthodox Church are a good place to start to search, and these views correspond with our views as Anglicans regarding the nous and  spiritual development.  Here are some of the links I used as my own preparation:

We drew a circular diagram of our body, soul and spirit for our Main Lesson book, and started veil painting of  ourselves with our arms lifted upwards to the spiritual world  as the spiritual beings we are with a geometric background.  We also talked about how we are different than our animal friends, harking back to Grade Four – our spiritual development, and also in the physical realm in  our ability to be extensively upright.  Kovacs has several decent chapters about being upright and we looked at the spine from different views.   This would be a great point to have a skeleton available.  There are also many boney landmarks on our own bodies we can find ourselves.

In keeping with Dr. Tan’s idea of digestion connecting us to the Earth, I was reminded of the Kindergarten verse:

Earth who gives us all this food,

Sun who makes it ripe and good —

Dearest Earth and dearest Sun,

We will not forget what you have done.

Be present at  our table, Lord,

Be here and everywhere adored;

These mercies bless and grant with that we

May feast in  Paradise with Thee (from “Let Us Form A Ring”)

We then moved into the digestive system and talked about the connection of food to our spiritual, emotional and physical selves.  For example, food can have a sacred connection, such as in the Eucharist at church or in not eating certain foods or fasting.    It can tie us to community and to culture.  We read the short story “Real Food” by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from The New Yorker, September 3, 20007 as an example of this cultural and familial tie.  And then we talked about the  physical functions of food for the physical body itself.  We then looked at the digestive tract and functions of the digestive organs.   We talked about eating whole foods in as close to a natural state as possible – why, what does this look like, what are whole foods, and why would we choose to eat organic foods?  Organic farming is a way of treating the earth; it also has to do with   We talked about how organic foods limit additives and also fortifiers.  What is a fortifier, why is that used, what is the process of fortifying a food?  We looked at examples (iodine in salt, niacin in bread, folic acid fortification, Vitamin D fortification and flouride in the water supply) and our daughter picked one of these to write a small paper about.  We discussed water and fat soluble vitamins and minerals that are in whole foods.   Lastly, I told the biography of Dr. Willem-Karel Dicke, the Dutch pediatrician who discovered the connection between gluten and celiac disease during the “Winter of Hunger” in World War II.

We began circulation this past week and its connection to water. In this regard, I think the Kovacs book paints a decent picture of this imagery.  Sometimes I quibble with his words…. For example, on page 104, “The oxygen flows from the heart in the arteries, and the carbon dioxide flows to the heart in the veins.”  It is true that the veins carry carbon dioxide as a waste product from cells, but I think a more basic statement that one would hear from medical folks would be that the veins carry de-oxygenated blood.  We talked about blood and its function, the vessels (arteries, veins, capillary beds) that carry blood and their similarities and differences,  the parts of the blood (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets – all in plasma and all the functions of these cells), and blood typing, and then an extensive picture of the heart and its emotional and physical connections.   For this part of the block, I highly recommend Craig Holdrege’s work ‘The Dynamic Heart and Circulation” available here with excerpts:   We made a (huge) list of all the words and idiomatic expression in English that have to do with the heart, how emotions are reflected in blood flow, rate of heart beat and blood pressure and the actual flow of blood through the heart, including the valves and timing of blood flow.  For a biography, I talked about my time working in a clinic for pediatric sickle cell patients and used the inspiring local biography of a hematologist/oncologist I worked with, along with an introduction to Linus Pauling in his contribution to sickle cell research.

We still have the respiratory system and human sexuality/reproductive system to go, but this block is a lot of fun.  Just think ahead about – the facts,your opinions and your values.  In the homeschooling environment, this is essential.


6 thoughts on “Seventh Grade Physiology

  1. I am so excited about this post. It is like you read my mind, thanks so much.

    I am interested in this information for myself, my own growth and curiosity, although my 3 and 5 year olds inquire and are fascinated by bodily functions, seeing raw organ meats and helping cook the animals we get at farm, home birth. Would you share anything that you feel you would specifically not share with a young child in the topic of physiology?

    Also I have come across a book of 19 century print art of animals created for scientific use. I am fascinated by this art-science-popular interest overlap, and the art for me and the children stands alone as a research reference and information for our home use. I have been wondering if there is something from this time period of drawings of human physiology and processes that we could enjoy as art and reference? Maybe you know of something?

    Thanks so much for this post chock full of info I would have spent forever googling.

    • Not per se, Katie. Three and five are really young so I think what is more absorbed is the attitude and openness than the exact facts…I write from a Waldorf perspective on this blog, and within the curriculum for Waldorf homeschooling or Waldorf School, physiology is brought in to meet adolescent needs. Up until that point, it is what is absorbed through life. In Waldorf education, we focus on facts later and more of a “in life”, less explanation is more kind of attitude for children below the age of ten.
      I don’t know if that really helps, but willing to have a continuing dialogue if anything comes to mind for you!

  2. Thanks for this post. Ian is in 7th grade in public school but I follow your posts because they help me add things at home. It was interesting to see how he has done it at school and how you are doing it. I love how there is so much about digestion and want we eat, all the clean water lessons, the organic discussion, and the additives! It’s a great year to talk about bodies…at 14 it’s all about the changes and he is so much more aware of himself and a young growing man.
    And at this age their brains can gather in the organic farm produce, the choices we make in our food all the way down to our digestion…..and poop.
    Thanks Ann

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