Teaching digestion to a ten year old - aka "How Is Poo Made" - experiments and suggestions please


Hello everyone - and especially teachers.
It’s now sunny and I’m teaching my next door neighbour’s ten year old boy digestion.
So we sit in the garden, two metres apart, and we’ve had one ‘lesson’ where we drew the main organs of the digestive system onto a boy sized human outline. He wants to know more and has told me he’ll be coming back today at 1430 (UK time)!

So this is my general plan -
each ‘lesson’ will be 30 minutes -
we’ll start with a quick quiz to recap the last ‘lesson’ -
have one small part of digestion per ‘lesson’ -
and an experiment or exercise for every ‘lesson’.
I want to cover ‘how and why’ digestion happens and not just ‘where and what’ (ie the organs of digestion and food to poo) - so I want to cover the hormones as well as the nervous system. I hope this will give him practical information that will inform his choices…

Please can you all give me ideas about experiments and exercises, lots and lots of them.

This afternoon were going to ‘do’ carbohydrates and the experiment will be to chew a piece of plain bread to experience how the starch is broken down into sugars.

Thank you.

(Polly) #2

Have you got some iodine solution to demonstrate the presence of starch?


One of my favorite childhood Saturday morning snippets…SchoolHouse Rock…They have a bunch of videos on the human body…like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh2-g3ftCaE Not much there other than a funky jingle and cartoons.

But this one from the Khan academy is waaaayyyy more informative… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2V4zMx33Mc You will likely get some great ideas here.


The Cloaca Poo Machine art installation could be fascinating for any 10 year old.


Remember- he is only 10. You dont want to go into a whole biochemistry lecture when he hasn’t even had chemistry yet. I would stick to the organs and what they do. Include the liver and pancreas. I honestly dont think diabetes is a part of that picture yet, although you could mention it on the side. I am not a teacher but I am a medical doctor. I think however you start simple and later you get to the more complicated stuff. Sometimes it is hard to discern what a child is able to grasp, and what is age appropriate. I dont mean that emotionally but intellectually.

(Jane) #6

If you have some digestive enzymes (not probiotics) you can empty a capsule into some oatmeal and watch it “dissolve” (digestion). The better the enzyme, the more complete the dissolving will be.

I did this to test 3 brands a few years ago… one from a local store, a reasonable-priced one and an expensive one from Amazon. The one from the local store did nothing and was worthless. The more expensive one turned the oatmeal into water - the cheaper one turned it into a thicker liquid. We saved the expensive one for vacation and use the cheaper one when we need help at home.


Thank you Polly
I don’t,
But I’ll ask my local chemist.


A very good idea - thank you Janie.


Yes and thank you.

My approach is to investigate, to encourage observation and then to explain those observations with anatomy and basic processes. We chewed plain bread until it became sweet to experience digestion.

The poor boy has a long term ear infection and so has been on antibiotics for a few weeks with subsequent loose stool. He isn’t feeling great. He knew about water absorption in the large intestine and so could work out he maybe could drink more to compensate.


Is he asking you these questions, or are you trying to direct him into the direction of medicine as a profession?