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The science and art of clay in the classroom

Posted by on April 29, 2014

clayheartStudents enrolled in the General Education Human Biology course taught by Associate Professor Johnny Lloyd probably didn’t anticipate sculpting and artwork being part of the curriculum. However, as Lloyd recently shared with faculty colleagues, he had good reason for incorporating clay modeling into the classroom. He was introduced to the concept during two national Human Anatomy and Physiology Society conferences.

“I decided to apply what I had learned from the clay modeling workshops to the classroom,” he said. “The application of clay modeling in being taught anatomy is based upon some students learning better by ‘doing.’ Making anatomical structures by clay satisfies this need. What was accomplished by using basic sculpting modeling clay and a poster board was amazing. Students appeared engaged with the activity and had fun while learning.”

claycell2Students working in groups used clay to make a cell, brain and heart. The construction of anatomical structures from clay (a hands-on exercise) is an alternative method to wet dissection. Students responded positively to this approach. In a learning survey, most reported that clay modeling was an effective way to learn.

Lloyd also applied this active learning approach to the STEM MyTime after school program, in which AU students and faculty help tutor middle school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The middle school students developed clay models of the human digestive system as part of a program on health and nutrition.

In addition to incorporating clay modeling into his college curriculum, Lloyd has been using a virtual cadaver interactive computer program in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology. Students are actively involved by using the mouse to “dissect” a real cadaver to explore and learn all the anatomical and physiological systems in the human body.

For more information about our biology program, visit