By Shreya Srinivas, FCSN Voices Senior Youth Reporter
Health is extremely important, and the more aware you are of how your body works, the better you’ll be able to take care of it.
Meducate is a team that strives to provide health education and spread important messages about medical science, especially to communities that don’t necessarily receive it. They began this mission around two to three years ago, and have come a long way- an impressive project that they are currently working on is their work with over 150 high schools in Nigeria, in which they implement programs teaching reproductive health, mental health, and more.
This successful group partnered with FCSN about a year ago to start the Human Anatomy course. Ethan, Nitya, and Albert run this engaging program that has taught many children about the wonders of the human body and staying healthy. Albert, who was the only one available for an interview, has been working with Meducate for the better part of 2 years. His previous experience includes teaching at library workshops and at Jeena, an organization dedicated to specially abled people and creating programs for them- this past work has given him a great deal of experience in developing instructional activities and interactive lessons, skills which proved useful in the Human Anatomy course.
When asked about what he has learned through these previous experiences in library workshops and with Jeena, he stated, “… the most important lesson that I’ve learned personally is that the best way to get people to start to engage… and gain confidence is by showing them that you’re someone they can trust… a lot of times, learning and teaching can feel impersonal- I, along with a lot of the other Meducate members, learned biology and anatomy through textbooks or Khan Academy, and these are really great if you’re trying to satisfy your own curiosity, but at the same time, they can lack that personal element that makes learning actually fun and enriching… just center it around the student to work with them and cater your lesson to their weaknesses, what they need to improve on, but also at the same time, not to force your vision of learning onto them. Just be patient, be kind, and work with them as personally as you can.”
This principle of personal engagement and interactivity was apparent in the first event of the Human Anatomy course, around the fall or summer of 2020. Ethan, Albert, and Nitya held a small workshop for the children at FCSN to participate in. There were different stations that focused on various parts of the human body, with a booth dedicated to a model of the digestive system, another booth that let people try on brain caps that showed different parts of a human brain on the cloth, a station where they tested out reflexes, such as hitting the knee, and more. With it’s engaging activities and unique games, the Human Anatomy course was off to a fantastic start.
Unfortunately, it was only able to last two or three more sessions- the COVID19 pandemic hit, forcing the city into lockdown, and Meducate was forced to adapt the interactive, in person enrichment of their program to an online setting, something which they had never before attempted.
The biggest obstacle in doing classes over zoom was the loss of their biggest strength: the interactivity of their teaching and the hands-on games that made the program so engaging to begin with. Albert, Ethan, and Nitya combated this issue by introducing drawing activities, such as sketching out the entire digestive system, in order to keep students interested. They also plan to have students build models using objects around their houses.
Keeping students actively learning also includes using visuals such as slideshows, with occasional activities throughout, or going into breakout rooms with around five students per instructor in order to create a more individualistic learning environment.
Over time, students got comfortable with the class and began to be more confident in their learning. The instructors had been successful with adapting their style of teaching to an online environment and making lessons engaging and upbeat despite the obstacle.
People with special needs are not usually given opportunities such as the Human Anatomy course, due to stigma and stereotypes that subjects such as anatomy, biology, and other sciences are too difficult for the differently abled. The instructors at Meducate dispel this notion through their curriculum. Their interactive lessons, individual attention, and engaging learning environment has helped differently abled children learn about topics they otherwise may not have access to, proving that people with special needs can learn anything if provided the right resources.
The future looks bright for the Human Anatomy program- instructors plan to kickstart a new series on beginning biology this fall, as their first pivot away from human anatomy. These classes aim to introduce topics such as animals, plants, cells, genetics, evolution, and more. Considering the success of their previous courses and their initiative to overcome obstacles, this venture into new territory has high expectations. The first class started on September 19th, Sunday, and will be an exciting new chapter in Meducate’s journey of education.