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Skeleton of a boy sitting on the 'D' of 'Dream', from Francesco Bertinatti, Elementi di anatomia fisiologica applicata alle belle arti figurative (Turin, 1837-39).  Artist: Mecco Leone. Lithograph
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Anatomical Metaphors can be conducted in a media center/computer laboratory or in the classroom.

Subjects: Biology, Visual Arts, and Language Arts

Grades: 7-8 grades

Brief Description: Students will view anatomical illustrations to understand the metaphors used to describe and understand human body.


  • View and evaluate metaphors used to understand the human body and its various functions.
  • Expand knowledge of human body and its function.
  • Conceptualize metaphors for various functions and parts of human body and create a composite illustration of a human body using metaphors. (e.g. drawing a human brain as a computer and its wires as nerve system)


Metaphor, anatomy, illustration, Padua (Padova in Italian) for history visit, visualization, chemical industry, digestive, respiratory


Paper, pencil/pen, flip chart or overhead projector, construction papers, magic markers, old magazines and other art materials needed.

Lesson Plan:

  1. Explain to students that they will use their knowledge of biology, art, and language (i.e., metaphor) for group projects.
  2. Tell students that the class will first look at examples together.
  3. Introduce the following two anatomical illustrations (one at a time or together):
    1. Human body and a house
    2. Industrial body
  4. Use the following questions to conduct a class discussion:
    1. What is a metaphor?
    2. Observe this image for a few minutes to identify metaphors used. Note students responses on a flip chart or an overhead projector.
    3. How does each metaphor convey a certain body part or function?
    4. What are the differences and similarities between these two images and the types of metaphors used in each image?
    5. Can you think of other things to use as metaphors? List students' responses on a flip chart or an overhead projector.
  5. Tell students that they will be creating a collage of a human body/anatomy using metaphors.
  6. Prepare 5 pieces of paper in a bag with one of the following written in each paper: "head and neck", "upper torso", "lower torso", "arms and hands", and "legs and feet."
  7. Divide students into 5 teams and have each team draw a piece of paper from the bag.
  8. Tell each team that they will have 2 class periods to research and work on creating a collage to illustrate the part of body that they selected.
  9. Provide each team with a minimum information that need to be included such as:
    1. Title
    2. Labels for each metaphor and its corresponding human anatomy or its functions
    3. 1-page essay describing why they chose their specific metaphors, etc.
  10. When the project is finished, ask students to present their 'metaphoric anatomies' to their classmates.
  11. On one wall of the classroom or in the hallway, put together all 5 parts of the body for display.