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In this activity (on pages 24-34), learners explore the four-part stomach of cows (and other grazing animals called ruminants), and compare it to the human one-part stomach and its digestive process. In Part One learners color, cut out, and assemble the parts of either a human or cow digestive system. In Part Two learners recreate ruminant digestion by letting wet cut grass or shredded lettuce leaves decay, and use their sense of smell to understand the process fermentation.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 2 hours

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Simulation

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • colored pencils or crayons
  • scissors
  • tape
  • 1 liter grass clippings packed loosely or shredded lettuce leaves (as a substitute)
  • 3 zip-lock sandwich bags
  • 1 large zip-lock plastic bag ( 4 l. or 1 gal.)
  • hammer or heavy spoon
  • cutting board
  • 50 milliliters (4T) water
  • measuring spoon
  • permanent marker
  • heating pad or warm place
  • towel


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Human Body
      • Digestion
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Animals


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • smell

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Designed specifically for

  • Rural dweller

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Explicity developed for this group


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, University of Nebraska State Museum and Nebraska 4-H, 2002

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation Informal Science Education Program, 9909496
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute