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Learn How the Digestive System Works

Explore how the digestive system works with this STEM DIY.

Bring your next science lesson to life with this DIY digestive system model! Using recycled materials and pieces from your Arts and Crafts Library, create a STEAM/STEM, tactile model for learning more about how the human body breaks down food.

Materials Needed: 

  • 1 long, rectangular piece of cardboard

  • Cardboard tubes (recycle from toilet paper or paper towels)

  • Cardboard egg carton

  • Bubble wrap

  • Scissors

  • Hot glue gun (always ask an adult for help with hot glue!)

  • Clear tape

  • Red washable paint

  • Paintbrush

  • Small fuzzy sticks 

  • Large pink fuzzy sticks

  • Wooden beads

  • Felt pieces (green, white and yellow)

  • Small cardboard tube

  • Thick white paper

  • Marker or alphabet stamps and ink

      How to: 

      Below, I’ll explain how to use your craft supplies to build each organ in your digestive system model!

      Step 1: Small Intestine

      To build your small intestine, bend and wrap your large pink fuzzy sticks into a round shape. Glue these to your cardboard base, in the bottom third. You will start near the end of your model and build up!

      Step 2: Large Intestine, Rectum, and Appendix

      The large intestine, or colon, wraps around the small intestine. To make this part of your model, start by cutting your toilet paper or paper towel tube in half lengthwise. Place your scissors inside the tubes and cut along the length of the tube. 

      Next, cut the tubes into smaller pieces and place them around the small intestine. Run beads of glue along the bottom cut edges of each tube and glue them onto the cardboard. Cut a small piece from the cup portion of an egg carton and glue this at the end of the large intestine, pointing down - this will become the rectum in your model.

      Next, choose a color of fuzzy stick from your KMM Arts and Crafts Library. You will need 6-7 of the same color fuzzy stick. Cut each fuzzy stick into three equal pieces and gently curve them into a C shape. Use hot-glue to glue these pieces of fuzzy sticks around the cardboard tubes of your large intestine. Finally cut another egg carton cup for the other end of the large intestine where the appendix is located. Glue a small wooden bead at the bottom of this egg carton piece to finish the appendix.

      Step 3: Stomach

      As you continue to move up your model, the next organ you will make is the stomach. Begin by using clear tape to tape three green pieces of felt together. Run the tape along the seams. Flip this over and cut the felt into the shape of a stomach. Use hot glue to glue the stomach to your cardboard so that the bottom of the stomach is touching the top of the cardboard tubes of your large intestine. Use your hot glue gun to glue green fuzzy sticks around the edges of the felt stomach.

      Step 4: Pancreas

      The pancreas is a small organ that will be located between the stomach and large intestine in your model. To make the pancreas, choose a color of fuzzy stick. Take two fuzzy sticks and bend them into a loop. Squish the loop and twist it in two locations to make three bumps. Glue the fuzzy stick pancreas to your cardboard.

      Step 5: Liver

      To create the liver on your model, begin by cutting the shape of a liver out of bubble wrap. This adds an interesting, tactile element to your model. Flip your bubble wrap over so that the smooth side is up. Paint this side of your bubble wrap with red paint. Once it dries, flip it back over and glue it to your model, above and to the left of your stomach. Glue red pipe cleaners around the edges of the liver.

      Step 6: Esophagus

      To create the esophagus, you will need one KMM paper tube (you could also substitute a paper straw if you want!). Cut the bottom of the tube at a slant so that it fits along the edge of your stomach, pointing straight up. Cut the tube in half lengthwise, like you did the tubes for the large intestine, and glue it to your cardboard.

      Step 7: Gallbladder

      The gall bladder connects to the liver and runs down underneath the liver. To create the gallbladder, use two pipe cleaners. Bend the first pipe cleaner into a “Y” shape. Glue the top of the “Y” onto the liver so that the bottom runs down to touch the top of the stomach. Place a small wooden bead at the end of the other pipe cleaner and bend it to keep the bead in place. Glue this to the cardboard so that the bead looks like it is hanging down, curving around the stomach.

      Step 8: Mouth and Salivary Glands

      The final piece of your model will be the mouth and salivary glands. To make the mouth, bend two pink pipe cleaners into a squashed “C” shape. Glue this to the cardboard at the top of the esophagus. Cut small rectangles from white felt to make the teeth and glue these inside the mouth. 

      For the salivary gland, cut a bean shape out of yellow felt and glue this behind the mouth. Glue a yellow pipe cleaner around the edges!

      Finishing touches!

      To finish your model, cut out around the outside of all the organs you have created, leaving about 1 inch of cardboard around the outside. 

      Next, create labels. You can make the labels by writing the names of each organ onto white paper and cutting them out. Or, if you have stamps, stamp each name onto your white paper and cut them out. Glue the labels onto the correct parts of your model. You can create labels for: mouth, salivary gland, esophagus, liver, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, large intestine, small intestine, appendix, and rectum.