Organs and Body Systems Lesson Plan: The Guts and Bolts Game

Grade Levels: 6-8

In this organs and body systems lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the primary functions of various body systems. Students will also explore the parts of each system and their respective roles through a collaborative role play and an online simulation during game play. In addition, students will construct a prototype of a body system using real-world objects.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand the primary functions of various body systems.
  2. Explore the parts of each system and their respective roles through a collaborative role play and an online simulation during game play.
  3. Construct a prototype of a body system using real-world objects.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Computers for students to use in pairs
  • Class set of photocopies for the Vocabulary activity page you select and the Guts and Bolts worksheet (downloadable below)
  • Blank signs/index cards (one or more for each student)
  • One ping pong ball (or other small ball) for each group
  • Student copies of Moby's Notebook


With the Guts and Bolts game, students will learn about the interplay of body systems as they help Moby construct a cyborg Tim.

To prepare for this lesson, preview the movie topics in our Body Systems Unit and determine which ones you would like to include in your lessons. The Circulatory System and Digestive System topics are most closely related to the game. Photocopy the vocabulary activity page for the movie you will use right before students begin game play, as well as the Guts and Bolts game guide and worksheet/note-taking guide which are available below under "Downloadable Resources." You might also want to view our video Using "Guts and Bolts" as a Teaching Tool, which shows how one teacher used various questioning and scaffolding techniques to help students problem solve during game play.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about the function of the body system you've selected for today's activity. Bring the class to a whole group discussion and guide students to define the body system succinctly. Write their ideas on the board or on chart paper for student reference.
  2. Explain that students will role play how the body system works. Divide students into groups and pass out the blank signs/index cards. Ask students to discuss which organs and parts the body system is comprised of, and to write one part on each card. If students need more background knowledge, you can show the related BrainPOP movie now instead of after the role play.
  3. Have each each group member take one card and assume the role of a body part. Explain that the ping pong ball represents food for the digestive system, blood for the circulatory system, and air for the respiratory system. Emphasize the goal for each group: the digestive system must pass food through itself and remove nutrients; the respiratory system should pass air through itself, removing oxygen, and expelling carbon dioxide; and the circulatory system must take oxygen from the respiratory system (while giving it carbon dioxide) and nutrients from the digestive system, then passes those things on to all the cells of the body.
  4. Talk with students about the layers of teamwork that happen between each system within our bodies, and clarify how the systems are each made up of semi-autonomous organs communicating with one another and with other body systems.
  5. Show the related body systems movie from BrainPOP, ensuring that closed captioning is turned on. Encourage students to take notes on the vocabulary sheet as needed. Afterward, allow the groups to discuss their order for the role play again and make adjustments as needed. You may want to play the movie through a second time.
  6. Have each group (or one or two groups who volunteer) come to the front of the classroom and demonstrate the role play, holding up their signs/index cards to show which organ they represent. Talk with students about their choices: how did they determine which organ would stand in which place? What would happen if their places were changed? What if a particular part was missing or not working correctly--could another body part compensate? What would be the effect on the body?
  7. Tell students they will now have the opportunity to conduct a body system simulation through online game play. Let them know that the game is like a puzzle: there are no clearly defined instructions, as the object is to figure out how the game works by testing different ideas.
  8. Pass out the Moby's Notebook game worksheet. Explain that it will function like a blueprint for a project students will build at the end of the unit (if you choose to do the final activity below.) Alternatively, inform students that the worksheet is like a blueprint of the system they will build during the game, and they should feel free to use the form to record their confidential plans.
  9. Allow students to explore the game in pairs for 10-15 minutes. Students should have enough time to complete the digestive level.
  10. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, they’ll be able to take snapshots during game play to capture significant moments and reflect on their work. Clicking on the snapshot tool generates a thumbnail image which is stored on the bottom left of the screen. At any point during game play, students can click on their snapshot(s) and type a caption or response to a prompt, and save or submit it to your teacher’s account. Check out Guts and Bolts: Additional Features for My BrainPOP for more information and specific snapshot prompts you can give students during Guts and Bolts game play.
  11. Bring students back to a whole class discussion to talk about their strategies. What worked? What strategies were not successful? Give students time to record these thoughts on their worksheet and document how they solved the digestive level. You may want to play portions of the game as a class to model strategies and help students make connections. This video can give you more ideas for facilitating student thinking.
  12. Provide an additional 10-15 minutes of time for game play. Encourage students to reflect back on their worksheets as they progress to harder levels.
  13. After the time for game play is over, ask students to pause the game before closing it out and draw their creation at the bottom of the worksheet.
  14. Explain that students will design their own level of the game and build it in real life, combining both the role play activity and the simulation they did online. Challenge students to work with their initial group to get their ping pong ball through a system they build together. Each students should bring in an object to represent a body part to build a prototype. They may bring in random items, or brainstorm in advance what they might be able to use from home to represent each part. Encourage students to make a blueprint by creating a diagram on the back of their worksheet.
  15. The following day, have students construct their prototypes. Observe as students pipe it together, and ask questions to stimulate their thinking about the flow. Make sure each group has a clear goal, which is to get the ping pong ball to go completely through the system. As an assessment piece, you may want to have them reflect on their learning through this experience either in writing, by taking photographs and captioning them, or through a video/podcast.

Extension Activity:

There are several ways you can extend and deepen student understanding after this lesson:

  • Have students focus on a particular organ and how it does its job. The Guts and Bolts game operates from the assumption of a healthy system where everything works together as it should. Have students generate and explore questions such as: What happens if the intestines break down? What if you only had one lung? What if the system was ravaged with diabetes or congestive heart failure? Have students alter their prototypes to demonstrate the effects of various health conditions.
  • During game play, the brain controls many of the autonomic body functions without the player having to do anything. You can encourage students to explore these functions of the brain within the nervous system by talking about the unseen role the central nervous system (CNS) played. For example, the lungs continued breathing because the diaphragm was getting signals from the brain stem. Invite students to incorporate the role of the CNS in their body system prototype and re-create the simulation.
  • Ask students to brainstorm a list of organs that were not featured in the game, such as the pancreas and liver. Divide students into small groups, and have each group select one of these organs to research. Allow students to utilize the other BrainPOP movies about the human body (a full list is at the top of this page) to learn more about the system. Challenge students to demonstrate their knowledge by creating a prototype that simulates the function of that organ.
  • Invite students to design their own assessment for the prototypes they create. How will they know whether the prototypes are successful? You can provide a simple 3 point rubric template and have students work in teams to create the criteria for each level of achievement. Alternatively, students may want to create a checklist of basic standards that must be met. Encourage students to create a meaningful system of evaluation and use that system to evaluate their own projects as well as those of the other groups.

Downloadable Resources:


BrainPOP Movies:

Blood (Activity Page Answer Key)
Brain (Activity Page Answer Key)
Digestive System
Endocrine System
Human Body (Activity Page Answer Key)
Lymphatic System
Nervous System (Activity Page Answer Key)
Reproductive System (Activity Page Answer Key)
Respiratory System
Urinary System