Conveyor Belt Sushi and the Circulatory System

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My students love sushi and there are a proliferation of conveyor belt restaurants in Bangkok. Not only do they serve delicious food but they also make an excellent model of the human circulatory system. Let me explain.

I usually start the lesson by showing the students five minutes of this video ‘Japanology – conveyor belt sushi’. I ask the students if they have ever been to this type of restaurant before and what they like about it. We discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of conveyor belt restaurants.

I then ask the students to imagine that they are running a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Bangkok. The restaurant is really busy and there are lots of hungry customers waiting to be fed. They need to get the food to the customers more quickly. How do they do it? Allow a few minutes for the students to Think, Pair, Share. (e.g. tell the chefs to get a move on and increase the speed of the belt motor).

I then tell the students that empty plates are piling up but there are no waiters to collect them. How could they solve this problem without employing more waiting staff? (e.g. the customers should put their empty plates back onto the belt so that they are returned to the kitchen).

plates

At this point I tell the students that conveyor belt sushi restaurants are similar to the human circulatory system (this tends to be met with lots of ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ as they realise that I haven’t completely lost the plot by talking about sushi in Biology).

The students are asked to extend the analogy by comparing the parts of the restaurant with parts of the circulatory system using a comparison table or bridge maps (bridge maps are used to visualise analogies by quite literally bridging the gap between the familiar and the new. The line of the bridge shows the common relationship that exists between two or more pairs of things).

bridge

The students should consider what each of the following represents in the human body and most importantly why (the relating factor):

  • The sushi (e.g. oxygen or nutrients);
  • The empty plates (e.g. deoxygenated blood);
  • The conveyor belt (e.g. blood vessels);
  • The chefs who prepare the food and put it on the plates (e.g. the lungs);
  • The motor which makes the belt go round (e.g. the heart);
  • The hungry customers (e.g. body cells).

Refer back to your opening questions about how best to get sushi to the hungry customers quickly and what to do with the empty plates. How does this relate to the circulatory system?

The activity should be extended by asking the students to evaluate the model. Are there any ways in which the comparison doesn’t quite work? Can the students think of any other ways of modelling the circulatory system?

This is a good lesson to have just before lunchtime because everyone gets very hungry!

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