In Mosa Mack’s Nervous System unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on how information that organisms receive from the outside world travels through the nervous system and results in different responses.
Students contextualize Nervous System vocabulary in a mind map before helping Mosa Mack solve the mystery of why a bat is unable to catch his prey. By the end of The Solve,students discover that information from a stimulus travels through the nervous system in a particular way, and if any part of this is disrupted, the whole chain falls apart. (75 mins)
Students explore a series of stations that experiment with the nervous system in action. Using their vocabulary mind maps, students practice explaining what is happening with each station. Once complete, students draw a visual model that details the nervous system response. (150 mins)
Students design a solution for a nervous system malfunction, such as: only being able to see half of an image due to brain damage (hemispatial neglect), carpal tunnel due to damage to motor neurons, Multiple Sclerosis due to myelin sheath destruction, or spinal injury. (150 mins)
Next Generations Science Standards
- Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
- Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.
Science & Engineering Practices
- Developing and Using Models
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (Oral Presentation)
Disciplinary Core Ideas
- Information Processing
Cross Cutting Concepts
- Cause and Effect
- Systems and System Models
- Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
- “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
- For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.
- Students tend to think that responses to stimuli are immediate, because their perception of these responses is so quick. Emphasize to students using the Make lab stations that a signal must travel through a chain of connected neurons and while quick, this does take time.
- Relatedly, students may think that when the body encounters a stimulus, a message is sent straight to the brain. Emphasize to students through the Solve and Make that our nervous system is made up of many connected neurons and these must each pass the message to the next in order for it to eventually reach the brain.
- Students tend to believe that our eyes see out into the world. Rather, information from the outside world, a stimulus, enters the eye and thus we actually “see in” (see in a receptive process). This can be emphasized through the pupil dilation Make lab station.
- Once students learn the nervous system pathway, some students assume that all pathways are the same and the brain must be involved in all of them. Emphasize that some nerve responses, namely a reflex, only go through the spinal cord, which is why they happen so quickly.
- Nervous System
- Sensory Neuron
- Spinal Cord
- Aaron Corcoran, Ph.D.
Wake Forest University
- Powerpoints for Make and Design
- Solve Student Handout
- Make Student Handout
- Design Student Handout
- Vocabulary Mind Map
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In this article, students are introduced to how reflexes work in the body. The process starts with sensory neurons that sense stimuli and connect with interneurons to decide what to do. Motor neurons are activated without the brain's involvement in a reflex, because action is needed before any thoughts or associations need to be accessed. OUCH THAT HURTS MOVE NOW!