Activity 1 - The process of digestion.
Discuss the importance of energy and nutrients within the context of the diet (e.g. the body requires energy from food and drinks to function). Then explain that it is essential that we absorb energy and nutrients so they can be used by the body. This process is called digestion.
Ask the children what comes to mind when they think of digestion. You can write some of the correct ideas onto the board to stimulate discussion.
Discuss what digestion is, the way in which energy and nutrients provided by food and drink are utilised by the body. Ask some questions to get the children to discuss their knowledge of digestion:
- Why is digestion important? (Without digestion, we could not absorb food into our bodies and use it.)
- What parts of the body are involved in digestion (Mouth, tongue, teeth, stomach, oesophagus and large)
Use the digestive system presentation and the digestive stages worksheet to introduce pupils to the main body parts associated with the digestive system, for example, mouth, tongue, teeth, oesophagus, stomach and small and large intestine and explore questions that help them to understand their special functions.
Explain how digestion involves different parts of the body: Mouth, tongue, teeth, stomach, oesophagus and large intestine, and that they all have important roles. Use the Label the digestive system worksheet to see if the children know where each part is.
You may wish to show the children the Digestion videos.
Introduce the role different parts of the body (mouth, teeth, oesophagus, stomach and intestines) play in the digestive process (e.g. in the mouth the food is broken into smaller pieces by the teeth through chewing). Using the Digestion functions worksheet, ask children to match the body part to its function.
- Mouth: The start of the process. The cheeks and tongue help to push the food towards the teeth. We start to chew. Saliva also moistens the food making it easier to chew and swallow.
- Teeth: When we eat, the teeth mechanically break down food into smaller pieces. Teeth of different shape tear, chop and grind the food. The food is then rolled into a ball and swallowed down the oesophagus.
- Oesophagus: When food is swallowed, the muscles in the oesophagus contract and relax, helping to push the food down into the stomach. Each mouthful of food takes about six seconds to reach the stomach once it is swallowed. Even when the body is upside down, the food will still pass from the mouth to the stomach.
- Stomach: The stomach is a sack made of muscles that contract and churn food, breaking it down even further. The acid and enzymes in the stomach also help to break down the food. Food can spend up to 2 to 3 hours in the stomach.
- Intestines: The small intestine is a tube about 6 metres long. The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients. Undigested food continues to move along the small intestine into the large intestine. Absorption of nutrients and water continues.
- Ask the children to create a poster explaining the process of digestion. The posters could then be used as part of a classroom display.
Reviewed November 2023
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