BYOB in NDEO conference

Anne standing beside the magnetic BYOB at NDEO conference in Chicago (Nov. 2014)


It was my pleasure to interview Anne Harris Wilcox at the Chicago National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) conference in November. This interview followed my discovery of the amazing life-size metal skeleton boards Anne created–and her colorful magnetic muscle attachments that overlay–which captivated everyone who walked by. These manipulatives interested both young and old as individuals gave in to the irresistible urge to pick up a clump of magnetized muscles and place them in just the right location on the skeleton. While some worked on the lateral skeleton panel, others worked on the anterior panel, all the while talking with Anne about whether their placements were anatomically correct. Not only did the resource itself act as a catalyst to engage, it also set up the informative interaction between “student” and teacher which directed and personalized the learning. And, not only is this inquiry-based problem-solving approach “magnetic,” the manipulative magnets also happen to draw people to them as well! Here is the interview which introduces you to this excellent new teacher resource.
~~Brenda Pugh McCutchen, Dance Curriculum Designs LLC


BPMcC: Anne, I notice no one can walk by without manipulating that metal board and the muscle groups. What led you to create such an engaging dance education resource?


AHW: Creativity sparks when a desperate situation presents itself. Several years ago, I was hired as a long-term substitute at a performing arts high school to teach Technique and Anatomy. I was the fourth consecutive substitute for these courses, and the Anatomy class was in especially bad shape. Students had lost all interest, and believed I was just another in a string of many subs to follow. If the students failed Anatomy, they had to repeat the full-year course again, so there was something at stake. I needed to find a way to engage the students and make their study of bones and muscles more accessible and fun. Build Your Own Body (BYOB) was my response.


BPMcC: How did the students react to life-size learning materials and what did they learn through them?


AHW: BYOB allows students to manipulate the muscles and construct muscle groups in a hands-on, three-dimensional way. Using BYOB’s colorful muscle magnets, clarified many misconceptions my students had. Distinguishing superficial and deep muscles, placing muscles at their origin and insertion points, and understanding that placement effects joint function, finally made sense to them.


BPMcC: Did the immediacy of problem-solving and correcting errors on the spot add something that “book learning” would have missed?


AHW: Yes, it did. Replacing a muscle to its correct position clarified the students understanding. A mistake could easily be fixed without messy erasure marks left behind. Knowing they could readily correct themselves helped build the students’ confidence and willingness to “play” with muscle construction.


BPMcC: What is the age-range served by this resource?


AHW: BYOB appeals to students from middle school through university, but for different reasons. Middle school and high school students are drawn to the colorful muscles and the labeled bones. Often this population focuses on identification of bones and muscles, so the students really respond to the vibrancy of BYOB. For university students, the accuracy of muscle placement leads to enhancing their conception of muscle function and use, as well as concepts such as agonist/antagonist muscles, posture/alignment, superficial/deep awareness, and muscle balance.


Build Your Own Body illustrates the integration of the arts and sciences that benefits students at so many levels. Students have regular “aha moments” as they locate and place muscles on the labeled bones of the skeletal images.


BPMcC: What are other useful ways can you teach with Build Your Own Body?


AHW: I also use BYOB as a regular reference tool as well as a means of student evaluation.
Here are some additional ways:

  • Purposefully misplace muscles and have students make the model anatomically correct.
  • Have all but one (or two, or three) muscle correctly placed, and then have students find the misplaced muscle or muscles.
  • Create games where students answer questions by building a particular muscle group.
    Questions: Can you construct the muscles that extend the knee? Which of these muscles helps flex the hip? What evidence shows you this?
    Answers: Students build the quadriceps; know that the rectus femoris also affects the hip; and illustrate this by showing that the rectus femoris is the quad muscle that also crosses the hip.


BPMcC: What pieces come with the Build Your Own Body kit and what size are they?


AHW: Here’s what’s included with the large BYOB kit for the classroom:

  •  Three metal panels (5’ x 2’) showing an anterior, a posterior, and a lateral view of a skeleton (each skeletal panel is labeled).
  • 83 Muscle magnets covering the large muscle groups of the entire body
  • Sturdy storage envelopes and a storage box for the muscle magnets.


BPMcC: Does the kit include a book to help teachers?


AHW: Yes, the kit includes a colorful and detailed instructor’s manual describing all included muscles and naming their insertion and origin points. This is an easy-to-use guide for teacher and student as well.


BPMcC: Thank you for giving us an effective way to personalize the study of anatomy, Anne.


Build Your Own Body (BYOB) is the newest “6DC Certified Educational Dance Resource” on this site. Learn more about it at the “Magnetic Manipulatives” link on the Home Page.


Anne Harris Wilcox, Senior Lecturer in the Program of Dance and Movement at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, NY, creates kinetic learning tools and games through Active Learning Games, LLC. Look for her booth at the annual NDEO conferences.