“Dad, I can’t remember the four major parts of the respiratory system, and we’ve got a stupid test on it tomorrow.”
“Well, Xander; if it’s a stupid test, you’ll be sure to pass it.”
“Very funny, Dad. But seriously: I can’t keep the parts of it straight. You told me that when you teach CPR, you have an easy way to help everyone understand the parts of the body that help us breathe.”
“Oh, OK. I know what you mean. I call it the Breathing Tree. Well, it all starts with oxygen.”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“Great. But how do we get the oxygen?”
“We… breathe it in?
“Sure. But what path does it take in our bodies?”
“That’s what I can’t remember.”
“Well, think of a tree.”
“Dad, even I know a tree is a plant - and plants use carbon dioxide instead of oxygen.”
“That’s right, Xander. But bear with me. Draw a picture of a tree.”
“OK, but I’m not an artist. Here… is this OK?”
“That looks fine. Now: what are its parts?”
“A trunk, branches, leaves, roots … where are you going with this, Dad?”
“Be patient. Now, take that paper and turn it upside down.”
“Holy cow, Dad, when are we getting to the part where I pass that test?”
“Trust me, buddy. OK?”
“OK… an upside down tree… I shoulda asked Mom.”
“What was that?”
“Never mind. Here’s your upside down tree.”
“OK, what’s on top now?”
What do the roots do?
“They get water and stuff from the soil so the tree can live and grow.”
“Perfect! Well, what part of the respiratory system gets oxygen – or, the “stuff” to help us live and breathe?”
“Our noses – or, sometimes our mouths.”
“Yes, that’s right. Our noses do the same job as the roots of that tree.”
“Well, OK, I guess so.”
“Well, the next place the oxygen goes is round and stiff like the trunk. Its name even starts with the first sound in the word “trunk”.”
“Hey, the trachea! I remember!”
“Good job, Xander. OK, and out of the trunk come branches. Look at the way they’re shaped. What part of the respiratory system looks like branches – and has a name that sounds like branches?”
“Branches… bronchi … right?”
“Right. Now comes the last part: what are those little bubbles that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide – just like the leaves?”
“Alveoli – but that one doesn’t sound like leaves.”
“Well, they both have a long “ee” sound. But I’ll bet you won’t forget those parts, now.”
“No, I guess not. Thanks, Dad! I guess you do know stuff, after all.”
“You’re welcome, Xander. I guess you can breathe easy about that test, now.”
"Ha ha, Dad. Don't quit your day job."
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