Teach About the Digestive System: Diagram and Overview for Middle School Science Students

Teach About the Digestive System: Diagram and Overview for Middle School Science Students
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The human digestive system is compromised of the alimentary canal (or digestive tract) and involves several important organs including the esophagus, stomach and intestines. An adult’s digestive tract can be up to 30 feet long. Digestion serves the purpose of breaking down the food that we eat into nutrients that the body can use. Middle School students will generally learn the basic parts of this system and how they interact with each other.


  • Blank digestive system concept maps
  • Index cards
  • Student science textbooks
  • Butcher paper
  • Art materials such as crayons, markers, yarn, construction paper, balloons, white glue, etc.
  • Fill in the blank quiz

Introductory Activity

Give each student a blank concept map (which you can design online) of the basic parts of the digestive system and allow about ten minutes for them to fill in the applicable terms. This should not take very long as this lesson plan is intended for review.

Group Activity

Divide students into groups of four, and assign to each group one of the following areas of the digestive system:

The Mouth

Vocabulary: salivary glands, amylase, pharynx, epiglottis, esophagus, peristalsis

The Stomach

Vocabulary: sphincter, chyme, pylorus

The Small Intestine

Vocabulary: duodenum, jejunum, ileum, villi

The Large Intestine

Vocabulary: cecum, appendix, colon, rectum

(Prior to the start of the lesson, be sure to list the title and vocabulary words for each group clearly on the board for student reference.)

Have each group use their class notes, previous assignments and textbook to define each of the vocabulary words, relating to their particular section of the digestive system, on index cards. Then allow the students in each group to trace one group member’s head and torso onto a section of butcher paper. They will use this outline to create an artistic representation of the entire digestive system using art materials that can include: crayons, markers, yarn, deflated balloons, construction paper, etc. Encourage the students to work together to come up with and implement ideas for this project. Emphasize the importance of showing attention to detail and using care and precision while working.

Once everyone has finished working and cleaning up their areas, call the class back to attention and have each group come up one by one to orally quiz the rest of the class, using their group’s vocabulary cards. Then they can show their artistic representation of the overall digestive system. Encourage each group to explain their reasons for using the specific materials that they have chosen for the project. (Each group should have selected a spokesperson at the start of the activity.)

Wrap-Up Activity

Have your middle school students complete a brief, fill-in-the-blank quiz on the parts of the digestive system. This will help you to assess each student’s understanding of the material. You can design your own quiz using a program like Microsoft Word, or you can use an online quiz generator to create one.

Extension Activity

Have the groups in your family and consumer science class write a detailed description of what happens during the digestive process, from start to finish.