Medical Mystery PBL for Anatomy & Physiology

How do you keep 120 teenagers engaged in a memorization-heavy class?

This is a question that has kept me awake many nights! My Anatomy and Physiology classes are really large this year. I have 4 sections and close to 120 students. My students are of various ability levels, but I do have an Honors A&P class this year for the first time (I’m excited about this!). As usual, I have a bunch of EL students, as well as many with IEPs (I have as many as 1/3 of the class this time). So, I’m going to have to be extra creative to keep my kids engaged, while not overwhelming some of them, but putting the pressure to excel on others. Easy to do right? Ummmm probably not!

So, what I’ve decided to do with my classes this year is utilize the life-sized bodies that I drew (see a video of it in this post ( ) in conjunction with a Medical Mystery PBL that we will participate in throughout the entire course (I’m writing it as we go lol). I have planned for us to create each body system as we cover it in class and build our life-sized bodies gradually. I hope to have them investigate something specific to their “patient” for each body system. Then, at the end of the year, have them diagnose their “patient” (with something broad and over-reaching such as heart disease, diabetes, etc). I think I might also have a few of their “patients” succumb to their disease and require an autopsy to investigate. I have 7 “patients” in each class so I really only have to find 7 different diseases/disorders that their patients could have. I still have more work to do on this part, but I feel good about the general idea.

Today was Day 1 of this experience….

Today was the first day I introduced our Medical Mystery PBL to my students since I showed them the 3D life-sized body I assembled as an example on the first day of school. They have been very curious about it and kept asking me what I had planned for them (& was it only going to be for my Honors class). They were excited that everyone is going to be using them. Today’s class was “Patient Intake Day” where their task was to:

  1. Pick their Medical Teams (they are in groups of 4 so I had my desks in groups today)
  2. Fill out the necessary paperwork for their patient (Patient Info, Insurance Info, In Case of Emergency Contact, etc.. Just like you do at the doctor’s office)
  3. Sign and complete Patient Privacy Agreement (because we are conducting medical research on their patient- it was a great time to talk about medical privacy and HIPPA regulations!)
  4. Begin their patient’s Medical Records file
  5. Assemble the Anterior Body Cavities life-sized body
  6. Assemble the Posterior Body Cavities life-sized body (most didn’t get to this point).

By the end of class today, every group had their patient’s paperwork completed, as well as the Anterior Body Cavity Body assembled. Next class, they will finish the Posterior Body Cavity Body. They also asked if they could provide the background on their patient’s life (they had a lot of fun making up their patient and naming him/her!) We will discuss the parietal and visceral membranes as a class, then they will complete the Guided Exploration on Cavities and Membranes where they will have to tell which organs are in each cavity and color code the cavities and membranes.

Stay Tuned….. 🙂

If you’d like to purchase the complete set of life-sized bodies we are using, please visit my TpT store at

Individual body systems (& the big bodies that go with them) can also be purchased separately.

About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
This entry was posted in Anatomy & Physiology, Anatomy Practicals- Stackables that Teach, Project Based Learning PBL, Strategies, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Medical Mystery PBL for Anatomy & Physiology

  1. Barbara Janicki says:

    Good afternoon,
    Is the lesson plan and worksheets for the medical mystery plb available in tpt?
    I would love to purchase this to use in the next few weeks! Very engaging!

    • It’s not on TpT yet. I’m just developing it with my students this year. I hope to have the entire thing finished soon. Right now, I’m swamped at school so I just have the basics done.

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