Celebrating America's Women Physicians

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Higher Education
Suggested Reading
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Lesson Plans

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Click on an age group to the left to access the corresponding lesson plan. Plans are designed to last between two to four class sessions and address age-relevant issues in health and medicine. The Handouts require the use of Adobe Acrobat PDF Viewer. Click the link to download Adobe Acrobat PDF Viewer.

Using Our Senses
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This lesson explores the senses of smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing. It provides an opportunity for students to meet a doctor who will show them how the senses are used when examining patients. The lesson introduces Dr. Virginia Apgar and the use of the Apgar Score in examining newborn babies.

Time Needed
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2 class sessions

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eyes, ears, nose, hands, tongue, sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • explore their five senses and describe what they sense;
  • describe ways the senses affect their lives;
  • observe the way that a pediatrician uses his/her senses and tools to examine patients.


  1. Electric frying pan and lid, microwave, or air popcorn popper
  2. Bag of popcorn
  3. Paper napkins
  4. Protective gloves for teacher
  5. Butcher paper
  6. Crayons or markers
  7. Index cards
  8. Tape
  9. Handout 1: Illustrations of the five senses (PDF) (eye, ear, nose, hand, and mouth) for non-reading classes
  10. Handout 2: Illustrations of the five senses (PDF) (eye, ear, nose, hand, and mouth) with written labels for reading classes
  11. Teacher Resource: Dr. Apgar Biography


Lesson 1:

  1. Before the lesson, draw an outline of a student-size body on butcher paper, cut out the illustrations of the five senses, and tape them on the body drawing.
  2. Tell the students they will put their senses to work to learn about the world around us.
  3. Have the students sit down and start making the popcorn. (If possible, hide the cooking device, so students cannot see what is being cooked). Tell the students they will be playing a guessing game.
  4. Ask students to guess what is going on. Ask students how they guessed that popcorn was being popped.
  5. Transcribe on 3X5 cards significant words from students' responses and model how each word corresponds to one of the five senses by taping cards near the senses.
  6. When the popcorn has finished popping, give each student a piece of popcorn on a paper napkin. Ask them to describe what it looks and feels like. Ask them to put the popcorn in their mouth, and ask what it feels like and tastes like. If it is a class of readers, transcribe students' descriptions, and ask them to point to the correct sense illustration for each word. Have the students help you put the word card near the corresponding sense illustration on the body drawing.
  7. Explain that the senses are the way we learn about our world. Explain that our senses are hard at work all the time and this is how we learn about the world around us.
  8. Explain that doctors use their own senses to examine their patients. Encourage questions. (Note: if a computer connection is available, explore the game "The Doctor Is In" to find out about some of the tools that doctors use to examine their patients).
  9. Introduce Dr. Virginia Apgar as a woman doctor who used her senses to save the lives of many babies. Do a read aloud about Dr. Apgar using Teacher Resource: Dr. Apgar Biography. Describe how the Apgar score requires that doctors use their senses to examine a newborn baby. Talk about how these observations save many babies by giving them the medical attention they may need as soon as possible after birth.
  10. Prepare students for the visit with the doctor on the following day. Mention that the doctor will talk about how physicians use their senses, and some special tools to give children examinations.
  11. Read a part of a picture book about children visiting a doctor. (Note: see the annotated bibliography).

Lesson 2:

  1. Before the lesson, set up a visit with a pediatrician. (Note: students' families may know of pediatricians who are willing to visit or who have visited the school before. If not, the county or state medical association, listed in the white pages of the phone book, is a good resource). Let the physician know that the class has been learning about their senses and the ways that physicians use their senses when they examine their patients. Indicate that the students know that instruments are used in an examination. Ask her to bring along some instruments that she could demonstrate to the students. Indicate that the students have been introduced to Dr. Apgar and her work, and that some mention of Dr. Apgar in their presentation would be useful.
  2. Introduce the pediatrician and ask her to discuss being a doctor—what she likes about her job, why she decided to become a doctor, etc.
  3. During the visit from the physician, make sure students have the opportunity to ask questions about the use of the senses as well as her work as a doctor.
  4. At the end of the visit, summarize the physician's main points with the class, and ask for questions.


Depending on the reading/writing level of students, list each of the five senses and ask students to point to the correct sense organ on their bodies and spell out the name of the sense. Flash cards with names of the organs can be used, if appropriate to the level of the students.


National Science Education Standards:

  • Simple instruments, such as magnifiers, thermometers, and rulers, provide more information than scientists obtain using only their senses;
  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.
  • Many people choose science as a career and devote their entire lives to studying it. Many people derive great pleasure from doing science.

English Language Arts Standards:

  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Possible Extension Activities

  1. Have students work in pairs to explore their surroundings. Have students take turns wearing blindfolds and being escorted by their partners.
  2. Invite a person who knows sign language to come to visit the class and teach some simple signs.
  3. Get a sample of Braille and ask students to close their eyes and feel it, explaining the many ways Braille is used (ATMs etc.).

Teacher Resources


There are many excellent books about children and doctors; some may be available in the school library.

Bibliography: Books on Visits to the Doctor

  • Allen, Julia. My First Doctor Visit, Aro Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0898681871
  • Berenstein, Stan, and Jan. Berenstein Bears Go to the Doctor, Random House, 1981. ISBN: 0394848357
  • Cousins, Lucy. Doctor Maisy, Candlewick Press, 2001. ISBN 0763616133
  • Davison, Martine. Robby Visits the Doctor, Random House for Young Readers, 1992. ASIN: 0679818197
  • De Santis, Kenny, and Patricia Agre. A Doctor's Tools, Dodd Mead, 1985. ASIN: 0396087396.
  • Dresler, Joan. Your Doctor, My Doctor, Walker & Co, 1987. ISBN: 0802766692
  • Kuklin, Susan. When I See My Doctor, Simon & Schuster (Juv); 1988. ASIN: 0027512320
  • Linn, Margot. A Trip to My Doctor, Harper and Row, 1988. ASIN: 006025839X
  • London, Jonathan. Froggy Goes to the Doctor, Viking Children's Books, 2002. ISBN: 0670035785
  • Marx, David F. Hello Doctor, Children's Press, 2000. ISBN: 0516270761
  • Oxenbury, Helen. The Check-up, Puffin, 1994. ASIN: 0140552758
  • Rogers, Fred. Going to the Doctor, Putnam Publishing Group, 1986. ASIN: 039921299X
  • Strong, Stacie. Going to the Doctor, (Pop-up Books) Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1991. ASIN: 0671744968
  • Zoehfeld, Kathleen. Disney's Winnie the Pooh: Pooh Gets a Check-up, Random House Disney, 2001. ISBN: 0736411070

Note: Many of these books are out of print, but are available used.


  • Alicia Allou, Media Specialist, Takoma Park Elementary, Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Davene Cohen, Early Childhood Specialist, Boring, Oregon
  • Shaari Cohen-Hblechuk, Kindergarten Teacher, Hall School, Gresham, Oregon
  • Maria Crassas, Science Teacher, Francis Scott Key Middle School, Silver Spring, Maryland