This unit is unique in that it integrates ultrasound technology as
a teaching and diagnostic technique and introduces students to
health science careers. Ultrasound is a safe imaging tool that has
advanced significantly in recent years. The machines are now available as portable devices and are laptop- and handheld-sized and
include ultrasound probes that plug into smartphones and tablets
for imaging (Herper, 2017). These portable devices are very user
friendly and produce excellent ultrasound images. Ultrasound has
been found to be a great teaching tool for human anatomy and physiology and provides active hands-on learning experiences (Mouratev
et al., 2013; Bell et al., 2015; Hoppmann et al., 2015). These hand-held ultrasound devices are well on their way to becoming the
stethoscopes of the 21st century and are being used by physicians,
nurses, sonographers, physician assistants, emergency medicine
technicians, and medics.
The case of Marcus can be adapted to focus on different diseases and
biology content (body systems, genetics, cell biology) depending on
the teacher’s course standards and students’ interests. Although it’s
presented here as a two-week unit, teachers can shorten the unit
and present the case as a review of content at the end of the year.
As a review unit, student teams would work more independently
to apply their prior biology content understanding to diagnose
Marcus. In this article, we describe how a teacher used the unit in
an introductory high school biology course. The teacher emphasized
standards related to cell transport and cell structure through a study
of dehydration, and emphasized standards related to inheritance
patterns through a study of various inherited cardiovascular diseases
related to Marcus’s collapse on the field. Throughout the unit, stu-
dents worked collaboratively to create a final product to address
the driving question: How can we educate others on the serious
health risks in young athletes? Specific activities of this unit and their
alignments to NGSS dimensions are presented in Table 2.
On the first day of the unit, students were introduced to the case of
Marcus (see Handout 1: Marcus Brown Case, Day 1; all handouts are
available as Supplemental Material with the online version of this
article) through a written description of his case. Students were
asked to take on the role of physicians and brainstorm, individually
and then in pairs, potential causes of his collapse. After students discussed for a few minutes why he might have collapsed, the teacher
recorded their initial diagnoses on a large chart paper. The teacher
then assigned students to groups of two or three to research potential health problems that might have caused Marcus’s symptoms.
Table 1. Alignment of the Marcus unit to “gold standard” project-based learning (PBL) design elements.
“Gold Standard” PBL
Elementa Unit Features
Key Knowledge and
Students engage in science practices to learn key genetics, cell biology, and heart anatomy
content (for alignment to NGSS, see Table 2).
Entry event: Introduction of the Marcus case through discussion of initial symptoms; students
engage in differential diagnosis throughout the unit to determine what happened to Marcus;
students work throughout the unit to determine what caused Marcus to collapse and to
answer the question “How can we educate others on the serious health risks in young
Authenticity Students connect to similar real-world, sports-related injuries through reading or watching
local news stories; they give final presentations to school and community members to help
make them aware of health issues associated with sports.
Student Voice and Choice Students gather evidence to support their final diagnosis, which they present in their letter to
Sustained Inquiry Students research various sports-related diseases (disease jigsaw and final presentation
research); students engage in investigative laboratory activities (egg osmosis lab, sickle cell
simulation, ultrasound, etc.).
Reflection Students reflect through daily written protocols (e.g., I used to think . . . , Now I think . . . ) and
through small-group and whole-class discussion of Marcus’s diagnosis.
Critique and Revision Students participate in a gallery walk and provide feedback on each other’s final projects
before formal presentation; they use peer critique protocols on initial project ideas (e.g.,
charrette protocol from www.nsrfharmony.org).
Public Product Students write a letter to Marcus’s family and also present and receive feedback from an
audience of parents, coaches, and teachers at a school- or community-based event.
aLarmer et al. (2015, p. 34).