Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Building to Extremes Human Body Shop SpyCatchers Hi-Tech War Crash Site Secrets Miracle Cell Light Speed Brain Fingerprinting Innovation - Life, Inspired
overview lesson plan list

classroom tips
How to Make an Artificial Organ
in this lesson plan:
procedures for teachers
organizers for students
Print this lesson plan
Visit PBS TeacherSource
Procedures For Teachers

Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities


Computer Resources
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Large screen display monitor (optional)
Specific Software Needed:
  • RealOne Player (available for free download at
  • Acrobat Reader 5.0
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
Bookmarked sites:

TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links. Preview all sites and videos before presenting them to the class. Materials:
Students will need the following supplies:
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Pens, pencils, and other writing tools
  • Graphic organizers for collecting and organizing research
  • Presentation board
  • Modeling supplies
Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • Television and VCR
  • A video of "The Human Body Shop" from Thirteen's INNOVATION series
  • Photos of animals with strong regenerative capabilities, such as sponge, hydra, planaria, earthworm, seastar, and salamander
  • Photocopies of Web resources if there are not enough computers available


Introductory Activity:
(One class period)

1. Show students pictures of the following animals: sponge, hydra, planaria, earthworm, seastar, and salamander. Ask the students: "What do these animals have in common?" Give students the opportunity to guess. When the answers "they are capable of growing missing parts" or they are "capable of regeneration" is elicited, discuss what students know about the regenerative abilities of these animals. Afterward, ask the following questions: "How does the human body's ability to regenerate or heal itself compare with these animals?" To further the discussion, ask students these questions -- and ask them to take notes as you discuss the answers.
  • Which organs or systems in the body can normally heal or regenerate?
  • Which organs or systems do not heal or regenerate easily?
  • What does the human body have that allows it to heal or regenerate?
  • How does modern medicine deal with missing or damaged organs/limbs?
2. In the previous discussion, the topic of stem cells probably will be mentioned. If not, be sure to bring up the issue. Explain to students that stem cells are cells that are capable of transforming into different type of specialized tissue cells. There are two basic types: embryonic stem cells, found in developing embryos, and adult stem cells, found in the body throughout life. Embryonic stem cells are potentially capable of developing into any tissue cell in the body, while adult human stem cells are probably more limited. Adult human stem cells are involved in the natural healing and replacement process of the body that takes place in the skin, blood and other parts. What cannot be repaired naturally, the medical field repairs -- with medications, prosthetic devices or treatments that encourage repair and regeneration.

3. Have students form groups of four. Ask them to list any disabilities or illnesses they can think of caused by the disability, loss or degeneration of an organ/limb. This could include blindness, Parkinson's disease, paralysis, and heart disease. Then have them list current treatments for them that they know of. Write students' answers on the board. Then, ask students to read the INNOVATION essay about bionic body parts and ask them to note any new information. Gather the class together and ask students to share any new information they have found. What have they learned? What questions do they have? What can be done to improve treatments?

Learning Activities:

Activity 1
(One class period)

1. Explain to students that they will be building a model of an artificial replacement organ/limb. In order to do this, they will:
  • perform research by watching video documentaries and gathering information from the Web
  • create a schedule and a plan for completing their project
  • determining what tasks each student will perform
  • monitor their own progress and goals by engaging in regular project meetings
  • test and select modeling materials
  • and finally, present their model for assessment as a plausible replacement organ/limb.

2. Explain to students that in order to create this model, they will need to learn about the most recent developments in prosthetics. Tell them that they will begin their research by watching "The Human Body Shop" from Thirteen's INNOVATION series. Explain that in the program they will see progress being made in developing technologically advanced prosthetic devices that restores physical functions more closely to the function of patients' original organs/limbs. The eventual goal of this effort is to create devices which entirely mimic the lost or damaged organ/limb. Distribute The Human Body Shop Organizer and tell students they should take note of the innovations developed, the disabilities that they could possibly cure, and their effectiveness in current practice, if any.

3. After viewing the program, have the students express their feelings and opinions about what they saw. What most impressed them about the treatments, their effectiveness, their potential for the future, and their potential to treat other disorders? Did all the treatments seem equally successful? What kind of technological advances might occur for advanced prosthetic devices? What potential do brain implants have in the development of advanced prosthetic devices? Will thought-controlled prosthetic devices be possible? Can sensations lost when a limb is removed be recreated by using implants in the sensory areas of the cerebrum?

Divide the class into groups and have them list on a sheet of paper the attributes that a prosthetic device should have to be a true bionic replacement for the original organ/limb. What would they like their replacement organ/limb to do? Afterward have a class discussion of what the students have found. Among the characteristics elicited should be:
  • It mimics the organ/limb it replaces closely and restores function as close to normal as possible
  • It is made of materials that integrate well with body tissues
  • It should be small and light so that it does not make movement difficult and is relatively unobtrusive
  • It allows for movement control and sensory function by the brain and nervous system that is close to the original organ/limb
4. Have the students go back to the groups and perform research on prosthetic devices using the bookmarked sites . Students should write down what the device does, and how close it comes to incorporating the characteristics listed above. Ask the students to pool their research afterward and discuss what they have found. Then pose the following questions for discussion:
  • Which mechanism of enhancement is preferable-advanced prosthetic devices or treatment of disabled organs/limbs using, for example, stem cell therapy? Why?
  • What disabilities are best treated through therapy, and which are best treated through prosthetics?
Activity 2
(Ten class periods)
1. Prepare the students for the following situation:
  • The class is a company of the future called "The Human Body Shop" that makes artificial organs/limbs.

  • Each group is a department responsible for designing and developing a particular artificial organ/limb of their choosing.

  • The groups must learn about the original organ or limb that they are developing the replacement for - its anatomy, physiology, the main tissues that it consists of, how it is controlled (by the nervous system, endocrine system, etc.), and how it functions.

  • Using the Bionic Organ Organizer, students must do research on the latest prosthetics innovations leading to replacement of their chosen organ/limb and its parts.

  • They use the data from their research as well as information from the programs to design a replacement organ/limb. The final design should be presented in the form of a 3-dimensional model made from readily available materials. Accompanying the model must be an illustration of it on a wall chart explaining the different parts and their origins (different stem cell or electromechanical prosthetic devices), as well as an illustration of the natural organ/limb for comparison.

  • The artificial organ/limb should theoretically have all the criteria for an artificial organ/limb that were listed in the previous activity.

  • The replacement organ/limb can be developed using therapies, prosthetic devices or a combination of both.

  • For the components of the artificial organ/limb, they must choose therapies and prosthetic devices that have either been proven successful, or for which there are indications of future success according to the programs and the students' own research.
2. Distribute the Proposal Writing Organizer and ask students to work together to submit an initial proposal for their project. Note that the proposal should include:
  • A description of the organ/limb they will be replacing, what its functions and features are

  • A list of the tasks they predict they will need to accomplish

  • A list of which students will handle which tasks and responsibilities

  • A timeline that includes estimated time for completion of each task, with each student's schedule mapped out individually

  • A list of the materials they predict they will need, including extra materials for "test" models

  • An explanation of how decisions will be made within the group

  • An explanation of how the group will get back on task if they encounter problems

  • Their initial predictions about what they will learn and whether their project will be successful.
Explain to students that they will need to have an approved proposal before they begin work on their project. Teachers may assess the proposals themselves, or they may ask students to peer- or self-assess their proposals using the Science Project Checklist wizard available online.

3. Once students have finalized a plausible proposal, they will use it as a guide as they create their artificial organ/limb model on their own, using any readily available materials that they feel will best simulate the artificial tissues and parts. Students may also want to create a drawing or slide show that explains how their bionic body part will be attached to the body, using the INNOVATION interactive feature as a model. During the building process, teachers should circulate to offer guidance, but should allow students to grapple with problems before offering assistance.

TIP: Students may need guidance as they determine which materials should be used in their models. You may want to suggest the following solutions to students having difficulty: Papier-mâché, rubber sheeting, cardboard, plastic sheeting can all be used to represent tissues. Plastic tubing and wires can be used to represent blood vessels and nerves. Metal, plastic and wood can be used to represent bone replacements. Old electronic and mechanical parts and computer components can be used. The model should be built on a wooden or plywood base supported by an armature, and should be life size. Artistic talent and imagination should also be encouraged. Finally, remind students that encountering problems is an expected part of project-building -- it's how they handle those problems that counts. Refer to our overview and tips for more ways to help students create their own, successful projects.

Culminating Activities/Assessment:
(Two class periods)

1. Have each group take a turn presenting their artificial organ or limb model, along with both wall charts. Allow 6 -8 minutes for each presentation. Each group should use a PowerPoint slide show, posters, or another medium to explain their process and argue for the organ or limb replacement's plausibility.

2. Students can vote on the best organ/limb based on a combination of factors such as originality, how closely it fulfills the criteria, and plausibility.

  • Create a life-size papier-mâché human that incorporates the artificial organs/limbs created in this lesson.

  • Perform a research project on a prosthetic device that is in use today. This could include such devices as kidney dialysis machines and artificial hearts, and list their benefits and ways they can be improved by advanced technology.

  • Watch "The Healing Cell" from Thirteen's INNOVATION series. Then explore the controversies involved in stem cell therapy, perhaps using a lesson developed by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. Finally, ask students to compare treatments using adult stem cells and advanced prosthetic devices. What are advantages and disadvantages of each?

  • Visit a laboratory where research into stem cells or prosthetic devices is taking place.

  • Explore the controversies involved in stem cell therapy, perhaps using a lesson developed by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

back to top Continue to Organizers For Students

Be more inspired. Help bring programs like INNOVATION to your PBS station ... pledge online!

E-mail this page

ask the experts for teachers resources about the series sitemap
INNOVATION Online is a production of Thirteen WNET New York. Copyright 2004 Educational Broadcasting Corporation.