What are the building blocks of our brains?
This unit explores the neuron as the primary building block of our brains. During this unit students learn how the neuron is put together and how it does what it does, and what can happen when different parts of the neuron fail to function as a result of a neurological disease. Students experience an engineering problem in which they are challenged to collaborate to design a faster, more efficient neuron.
What is the structure of a neuron?
This lesson introduces the neuron, the basic working unit of the nervous system, and its major structures – dendrites, cell body, initial segment, axon, and synapse. This lesson focuses on how the structures of a neuron can be specialized to complete different functions. Students begin the lesson by comparing sketches of different neurons. After a Socratic discussion, students work in small groups to build a schematic of the neurons required for specific behaviors. Finally students present their models to the class, focusing on how the neurons have specialized structures to complete their functions.
|– Students will be able to draw a neuron, label its primary structures, and describe the function of each structure.
– Students will be able to give examples of how neuronal structures are specialized for different functions.
|Building a neural pathway.
– HW worksheet
Other Materials:- Clay (optional)
|Work on unit projects
How do our axons transmit electrical signals?
This lesson introduces the action potential, the process by which axons signal electrically. Since the concepts involved in explaining the action potential can be quite abstract, this lesson uses demonstrations, analogies and a model to demonstrate the concepts.
This is one of two lessons available for introducing the action potential. This lesson is best for classes where students are unfamiliar with the concepts of diffusion, threshold, and impermeability of the cell membrane. The second version (Lesson 2 Differentiated) contains many more details about the action potential, and is therefore best for classes where students have already mastered the concepts of diffusion, threshold and impermeability of the cell membrane.
|– Students will be able to describe the concept of threshold.
– Student will be able to describe how Na+ ions flow into the axon to create the action potential.
– Students will be able to explain how Novocaine works.
|Socratic discussion with model axons to simulate Na+ ion movement.
– Activity worksheet
– Action potential model setups:
|Complete activity worksheet.
How fast do your neurons signal?
This lesson introduces myelin, the axon’s insulation. The lesson contains a hands-on activity, the ruler drop test of reaction time, to help students visualize how quickly neurons signal. Through a Socratic discussion, students are introduced to the constraints on how quickly the action potential can travel down an axon and are introduced to myelin.
|– Students will be able to describe how neurons increase the speed of electrical signals travel-ing down the axon.
– Students will be able to describe why myelination increases the speed of the axon potential traveling down the axon.
|Ruler drop test to measure reaction time and Socratic discussion.
– Do Now worksheet
|Response paper: Does lack of myelin explain teenagers’ poor judgement?
How do our neurons transport the materials they need?
This lesson is intended to demonstrate another key function of the neuron – keeping itself supplied with the material it needs to perform its functions in a timely fashion. In this lesson, students will extend their understanding of neuron function to include neuronal transport, which is how neurons get the needed functional components to the right neuron structure at the right time. Students will be able to connect this new function, neuronal transport, to the neuronal functions previously described, including receiving information, transmitting information and communicating information to a postsynaptic cell.
|– Students will be able to describe how neurons transport materials to their proper destinations.
– Students will be able to name the two primary motor proteins found in neurons, kinesin and dynein, and describe their roles in neuronal transport.
|Neuronal Transport worksheet
– Activity worksheet
|Complete activity worksheet: energy expenditure of neuronal transport.
What can go wrong?
This lesson is intended to pull together the main learning objectives in this second unit focused on the neuron. This lesson focuses on the symptoms that can arise when parts of the neuron are affected due to disease. Students begin the lesson by reviewing the parts of the neuron and their functions. After a Socratic discussion, students complete a jigsaw in which they read about patients with different neurological disorders that affect different parts of the neuron. Finally, in a teach-back, students present their patient and disorder to the class, explaining why the patient experienced the symptoms they did.
|Students will be able to describe how disorders affecting specific parts of a neuron disrupt neuron function.
|Jigsaw on case studies of patients with different neurological diseases.
– Do Now worksheet
– Jigsaw readings
– Jigsaw worksheet
|– Students will read the jigsaw materials and make sure the jigsaw worksheet is complete.
– Study for Unit quiz.
Teacher Prep: Unit 2 Lesson Overview Videos
In the YouTube embed below, click the order listing in the upper right to toggle the display for the full playlist.