Weaving a lesson to memory

Mar. 30, 2021

Multiple colored crochet pieces laying on white surface.

Teaching embryology – the study of embryos and their development – to medical students is a necessary challenge. It sets the foundation for understanding anatomy, as well as development and disease. A particularly challenging lesson to teach within embryology is embryonic lateral folding.Sarah McConnell, Ph.D. is sitting next to a bookcase knitting. She is wearing a blue shirt and sweater and is smiling with her dark hair pulled back.

Sarah McConnell, Ph.D., assistant professor in Neuroscience, was tasked with teaching this method to medical students. She developed a unique hands-on activity and is first author on a paper recently published in Anatomical Sciences Education that highlights the lesson. McConnell first tried a Play-Doh based activity for a year, but decided to move to a more sustainable medium, and eventually settled on yarn.

“It took me months to find the right design for this lesson, and my fellow faculty members helped test out the models and implement the activity with students,” McConnell said. “As for the students, they verbally expressed that they found this hands-on lesson helpful, and their higher quiz scores reflected that.”

Christopher Mooney, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, was the co-author on this paper.

Quotes from students:

I so enjoyed this. The creative aspect made light of a difficult concept, plus it helped me better visualize the process.”

The hands-on activity allowed me to see/feel and truly understand lateral folding.”

“I really appreciate making a complex learning objective into an approachable, colorful, fun activity that underscores the big picture. This provides me with a robust memory scaffold upon which I can add to later and revise in my mind as needed.”