Animal and human anatomy is among the most complex systems known, and suitable teaching methods have been of great importance in the progress of knowledge. Examining the human body is part of the process by which medical students come to understand living forms. However, the need to preserve cadavers has led to the development of various techniques to manufacture models for teaching purposes. A variety of materials, such as wax, wood, papier-mâché, or glass, have long been used to construct animal and plant models. In the case of the human body, the most innovative, yet controversial, method of preservation has been plastination, invented by the German physician Gunther von Hagens, by which actual human bodies are preserved as odourless and aesthetic models for teaching and exhibitions. We point out in our study that the ‘hands-on’ approach that some anatomical models allow, namely, the (clastic) disassembly and reassembly of the parts of complex systems and their models, is not only a crucial tool for learning, but is far superior to the simple passive observation that rigid, single-piece models allow. And what is valid for the learning of anatomy can be generalized to the acquisition of knowledge of other complex physical systems.