How to Teach Development of the Fetus to Elementary Students
by Andrea Buckner Schoenherr
A lesson on fetal development offers the opportunity to engage students in an inherently interesting topic. Form a lesson that meets the needs of your individual students and meets your school district's curriculum guidelines. Provide a lesson that is hands-on, memorable and designed to capture the interests of students.
Send a letter to communicate with parents about the upcoming lesson. Your school district might require a signed form of parental consent. Decide if the focus will be completely on the fetus or if conception (and to what degree) also will be discussed. Make sure any communication sent home is approved by your school administrator.
Give students a pretest to assess their prior knowledge about fetal development. This will allow you to know how the lesson should be focused. Tailor the test to fit your students' ability level. Consider questions about the length of pregnancy, the size of a fetus at various times and the fetus' five senses in the womb.
Provide students with a brief overview of the three trimesters of pregnancy.
Show students a variety of food that represents the fetus at various stages of development. For example, at week five the fetus is the size of an apple seed and at week 13 the size of a peach. (See the Resources section for a complete list.) Let the students guess and discuss the correct answers as a class. Pass the fruit around for tactile learners. This activity also engages visual learners.
Divide students into pairs or small groups, depending on your class sizes. Give each group a period of pregnancy to study regarding the fetus' development. Each group should be given time to research and prepare to teach the class about their assigned developmental period. Students can present their research in a creative way like a commercial, poster, song or interview. The class should take notes as each group presents. This activity is geared toward auditory and interpersonal learners.
Watch video excerpts of the fetus in the womb at various points during development. National Geographic produced an excellent documentary entitled "In the Womb." Provide students with a viewing guide to complete while watching the film and follow up with small-group or class discussion. This activity will again engage visual and interpersonal learners.
Have a neonatal nurse or obstetrician speak to the class. If you are able to obtain a speaker, make sure the students and speaker are prepared ahead of time regarding your expectations.
Have students create flip charts to organize the main ideas learned. Require the charts to have at minimum three--or at your direction more--sections. Each section should feature a picture of the fetus, which will flip up to expose facts on development. Fold a piece of construction paper in half lengthwise and cut the top layer into the desired number of sections. This activity is geared toward a wide variety of learners: kinesthetic, visual, verbal and intrapersonal.
Assess students' knowledge by re-administering the pretest or giving another assessment based on the material covered.
- Letter to parents
Fruit of various sizes
Video and viewing guide
Pictures of fetus
- Letter to parents
- Fruit of various sizes
- Research materials
- Video and viewing guide
- Pictures of fetus
- Construction paper