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Apple and Linguine

All About the Digestive System

Co Authors:

Jennifer Jackson
Department of Biology
Coastal Carolina University

Karen M. Aguirre
Department of Biology
Coastal Carolina University


This flipped case study is suited for general education undergraduate level biology. Students prepare ahead of time for class by viewing a video created by the authors that reviews the basics of nutrition and digestion; in class, students then engage in three activities to further explore aspects of the video's content using specific and concrete examples of diverse foods. During the first part of the case study, students learn information about balanced diets, nutrition and the digestive system. Students apply their knowledge on how food passes through the digestive tract, and how absorption and breakdown of nutrients occur by explaining and presenting the process based on assigned food items. Students are then asked to further apply their knowledge when presented with two scenarios ("mini-cases"), one involving gastric bypass surgery and the other the effects of cholera.

  • Identify individual food items in terms of nutrient value, i.e., is the food a carbohydrate, fat, or protein?
  • Understand the relative proportions one should eat to achieve a balanced diet.
  • Understand the sequential functions of the organs of the digestive system.
  • Demonstrate how individual foods pass through the digestive system, mobilizing nutrients for use (and also creating waste), and what happens at each step.
  • Discuss how disruption of the physical activities of the gastrointestinal tract may affect human health.
Keywords: digestion; digestive system; gastrointestinal tract; GI tract; cells; enzymes; cellular absorption
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Flipped, Mini-Case
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Cell Biology   Science (General)  
Date Posted: 7/13/2017
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The optional supplemental material listed below is appropriate for use with this case study.

  Down the Gullet: A Guided Tour of Your Guts “Science
Audio file created by: Science Friday. Produced by: Christopher Intagliata. Running time: 28:17 min. Date: April, 12, 2013. Interview with science writer Mary Roach, author of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, which "encourages people to think about what happens to food after it leaves the plate."


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  Apple and Linguine: All About the Digestive System
This lighthearted video takes a look at the individual organs of the digestive system, how food is digested into usable nutrients, and how those nutrients are mobilized to different parts of the body. Running time: 14:05 min. Created by Jennifer Jackson and Karen Aguirre for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2017.

  Gastric Bypass Surgery—Roux-en-Y Procedure
This video from the Mayo Clinic describes the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure and nutritional guidelines for post-operative hospital patients. A second part of the video discusses management post surgery, and is optional viewing. Running time: 7:58 min. Produced by the Mayo Clinic, 2009.

  The Claymation of Cholera
This claymation video introduces a camper who drinks water contaminated with Vibrio cholera, and describes the mechanism of action of cholera toxin. The toxin disrupts the function of the chloride transport system in the small intestine, resulting in abnormal water partition in the small bowel, with life-threatening excretion of fluid in the form of rice-water-stool. Running time: 2:04 min. Produced by the “Clay mators,” 2012.

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