Digestive System Lab Activity

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Free NGSS Life Science Activities

Simulating Digestion

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract—also called the GI tract or digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.

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Digestion is important because your body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water are nutrients. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair.

In this laboratory activity, you will simulate how digestion takes place using a plastic bag and a leg stocking. Through this activity, you will be able to visualize the pathway of food inside the body.

Digestive System Lab Learning Objectives:

At the end of this laboratory activity, students are expected to:

  • demonstrate how digestion takes place.
  • describe the pathway of food in the body.
  • identify where mechanical and chemical digestion takes place in the body.

Digestive System NGSS Standards Covered in this Lesson:

MS-LS1-3 Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.

Digestive System Lab Proper:

Here are the Files Downloadable Files for the Simulating Digestion Lab Activity

Simulating Digestion Lab Materials:

For each group of 4 students:

  • 1/3 banana
  • 1 cream cracker
  • paper cup with hole in the bottom
  • 50 ml water
  • white vinegar
  • resealable plastic sandwich bag
  • scissors
  • one leg cut from a pair of tights (or a stocking)
  • paper towels
  • spoon
  • plastic bowl
  • a plastic, paper or aluminum tray or bowl

Note: This activity is fun but messy, thus, cover the table with paper towels or newspaper first. Make sure to have enough space to work on to avoid spillage of liquid ingredients in this experiment.

Digestive System Lab Activity Procedure:

  1. Pour 50 mL of white vinegar into the plastic bag. The bag plays the role of the stomach.
    What do you think the vinegar represents in this model?
  2. Using your hands, break up the cream cracker and drop it into the bag.
  3. Put the peeled banana in a bowl and slice it with a spoon. Put the slices of banana into the bag.
  4. Add 50 ml of water into the bag.
    What do you think the water represents in this model?
  5. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it.
  6. Smash up this mixture with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes.
    • What does the action of your hand mimic in the digestive process happening in the stomach?
    • Describe the mixture after churning it.

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  1. Tilt the bag up slightly and cut a small hole in the one corner of the bag. Make sure it is in the corner where you are not tipping the mixture towards.
  2. With the stocking held low over the tray or bowl, pour the contents of the bag into the stocking.
    • What does the stocking represent in this model?

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  1. Squeeze the food through the stocking. Keep squeezing it to let the liquid run out. Make sure all liquid drips onto the tray.
    • What does the liquid represent in this model?
    • What does the tray that catches the liquid represent in this model?

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  1. Eventually, cut the toe off the stocking and squeeze the waste food out into the plastic/paper cup.
    • What does the plastic/paper cup represent in this model?
  2. Push the waste food through the bottom of the cup onto the tray.
    • What does the hole in the bottom of the cup represent?
    • What does this action represent in the digestive process?

Data and Results

Answer the following questions.

  1. What is digestion?
  2. Differentiate mechanical and chemical digestion.
  3. Describe the following digestive processes – ingestion, absorption, and elimination.

Discuss the following with your students:

  1. How does the activity simulate digestion?
  2. In which organs of digestive system do chemical and mechanical digestion take place?
  3. What is the limitation of the digestive model you created?

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