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Content Overview

As unique as a fingerprint, your brain determines who you are. This unit introduces students to the workings of the human nervous system-its structure and basic components, its relationship to the world around us, and some of its problems. Nervous System reviews how the brain functions as control center for coordinating essential body processes and responding to sensory feedback. Students are encouraged to use this knowledge in making good personal decisions, in protecting and making the most of their nervous system function. Students build structural models representing the brain and spinal cord, the regions of the brain, and the connecting network of nerves. The unit's main points include the following.

  • The brain is the most complex matter in the universe.
  • The brain's capacity for conscious thought, making connections between events, and reflecting about emotional responses distinguishes humans from other species.
  • The nervous system works in circuits. The human body's sensory systems are designed to collect information, bring information to the brain and/or spinal cord, and respond to that information.
  • The neuron is the basic functional unit of the nervous system. It is involved in everything you do, from breathing to sleeping to sports or dancing.
  • The nervous system exists in a delicate balance. Many factors in the environment affect nervous system functions.

How is the unit structured?

Section 1: Thinking about the Nervous System

Section 2: A Closer Look at the Brain

Section 3: Neurons: The Building Blocks of the Nervous System

Section 4: Reflexes: Neurons in Action

PE Figure 3.1 A neuron (nerve cell) is usually microscopic.

Section 5: Sensation

PE Figure 5.7 The pinna and ear canal are parts of the outer ear.

How is the unit structured?

Sections 1 and 2 introduce students to the nervous system through an exploration of the structure and functions of the brain. The text and activities help students identify and learn the functions of the brain's major parts.

Sections 3 and 4 focus on neurons. Section 3 describes what a neuron is and how it sends messages. Section 4 reviews reflex arcs as a model for how the nervous system functions.

Section 5 examines the neural structure of the eyes and ears to show students how the body translates sensory information into nerve impulses that travel to the brain.

Section 6 reviews the output messages from the brain to the muscles. Students learn that in order to perform a new activity, the brain must establish new neural connections.

Section 7 reviews some of the diseases and disorders that can affect normal nervous system function.

Why teach this unit? Connections to the Real World

  • Neurological illnesses affect more than 50 million Americans each year, costing 120 billion in health care.
  • Every year, 22% of the population experiences some form of mental health disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health)
  • More than 144,000 children in the United States suffer from head injuries in bicycle accidents. (Public Health Reports; NIH)
  • 300 bicyclists under age 14 die each year, 80% of whom die of head injuries. (Public Health Reports; NIH)
  • Drug and alcohol abuse costs the nation over $215 billion in prevention programs, treatment, lost wages, and violence.
  • Adolescents appreciate the opportunity to make their own decisions. In order to make good decisions, they need information. This unit provides students with information about one of its primary body systems-a system that, through their choice of actions, affects how they feel moment to moment.

Questions to Consider throughout the Unit

What elements in your environment that affect your nervous system can you control, and which are more difficult to control?

How much of whom we are is a function of the environment, and how much is a function of biology?

Section 6: Moving Muscles

PE Figure 6.1 Three types of muscle fibers: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal (striated).

Section 7: Maintaining a Healthy Nervous System

PE Figure 7.1 A migraine headache is a debilitating disorder of the nervous system. This figure illustrates how a migraine may be caused.

Unit Activities and Key Ideas
Section Key Ideas Activity

1 Thinking about the Nervous System

Your brain is amazing.

  • The nervous system is made up of the brain, the spinal cord, and a network of nerves connecting to all parts of your body.
  • Your brain acts as “Mission Control” to coordinate nerve messages throughout the body.
  • The skull, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood-brain barrier protect the brain's delicate nerve tissue.

Mini Activity: Billions and Billions

Mini Activity: Egghead

Activity 1-1: The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)

Mini Activity: Self-Portraits

2 A Closer Look at the Brain

How does the brain work?

  • Brain structures such as the brain stem and cerebellum control the basic functions of the body, such as breathing and balance. The cerebral cortex is responsible for thinking, making connections between cause and effect, and the processing, storing and recall of information.
  • While each portion or lobe of the cerebral cortex of the brain is responsible for a different function, there is close communication among these parts.
  • Internal balance, or homeostasis, is a result of the integration of nerve cell messages to and from the brain, the spinal cord, and the body.

Mini Activity: Brain Study

Activity 2-1: Big Brain on a Stick

Mini Activity: Brain on Your Hand

Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap

3 Neurons: The Building Blocks of the Nervous System

How do neurons work?

  • The neuron is the basic building block of the nervous system. There are three types of neurons: sensory, motor, and interneurons.
  • Sensory neurons transmit information to the brain. Motor neurons transmit information from the brain to various parts of the body. Interneurons transmit information from sensory to motor neurons.
  • The structure of the neuron differs from other cells in the body. Neuron design facilitates the transmission of electrical messages in one direction only.

Mini Activity: Building a 3-D Model of a Neuron

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

4 Reflexes: Neurons in Action

What is a reflex?

  • A reflex is the simplest circuit in the nervous system.
  • Once triggered by a stimulus, a reflex goes to completion and causes a response, such as a muscle reaction. Some reflexes are easier to control than others.
  • The five parts of a reflex arc are sensor, sensory nerve, control center, motor nerve, and muscle.

Mini Activity: The Knee Jerk Reflex

Mini Activity: Identifying Parts of a Reflex

Mini Activity: React First, Think Later

Activity 4-1: How Fast Is Your Reaction Time?

5 Sensation

How do you sense the world around you?

  • Sensory organs such as eyes and ears act as windows to the world that bring information into the nervous system.
  • Sensory neurons connect with certain areas of the brain. All neurons fire impulses, but where they go in the brain determines the nature of the sensation.
  • The eye and ear represent two different and highly specialized organs connected to the nervous system.

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

Mini Activity: Use Your Sensors

Activity 5-2: Designing and Building a Model of the Eye

Mini Activity: Pupils in a Different Light

Mini Activity: What Are The Advantages of Two Eyes?

Mini Activity: Eye Dominance

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye (Dissection)

Enrichment 5-1: Building a Model of the Ear

6 Moving Muscles

What makes your muscles move?

  • The nervous system triggers movement of many muscles for normal activities and to help with survival in the environment.
  • Some muscles move automatically to help maintain your body functions. Other muscles involve conscious coordination by the nervous system of many muscle groups at once.
  • Learning new movements requires practice to develop new connections between neurons in the brain.

Activity 6-1: Connecting Your Brain and Muscles

Activity 6-2: Moving Muscles

Activity 6-3: The Nervous System and Muscles Working Together

7 Maintaining a Healthy Nervous System

What can you do to keep your nervous system healthy?

  • The primary job of the nervous system is to coordinate normal body functions.
  • Scientists continue to learn more about brain functions through the study of diseases and disorders of the nervous system.
  • There are some simple things that can be done to keep the nervous system healthy.

Activity 7-1: Cortical Experiences

Mini Activity: Learning More about Nervous System Disorders

Mini Activity: How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Activity 7-2: Improving Your Memory

Activity 7-3: Your Nervous System in Action

Teacher's Guide Overview

This Nervous System unit is built around a variety of student activities. Text material can be used to introduce, reinforce, and extend the concepts developed in the activities. The activities are the foundation of this unit, so the unit's success depends on students' involvement in the activities. Embedded activities are interrelated, since the concepts developed in one may be applied in another.

Section Planning

For each section, you'll find extensive advance planning for the student activities and the section topic. Key ideas, section objectives, background information, suggestions for introducing activities, and the materials needed for each activity are listed on the Section Planning page. Review this information ahead of time to ensure that materials for each activity are available when you need them.

Support for Embedded Activities

Embedded activities are those activities contained or “embedded” in the Student Edition. Procedures for each embedded activity are contained in the Student Edition. In the Teacher's Guide, you'll find activity planning information, activity assessment, and student reproducible pages for each embedded activity.

Enrichment Activities

Enrichment activities are activities found in the Teacher's Guide. These activities are designed to extend and enrich students' learning experiences. Complete Enrichment activities, including Teacher Activity Notes and the student procedures and reproducible pages, are located at the end of each appropriate section of the Teacher's Guide.

GroupWork Activities

Learning science is a process that is both individual and social. Students in science classrooms often need to interact with their peers to develop a knowledge of scientific concepts and ideas, just as researchers, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians who are working in teams do to answer questions and to solve problems. The GroupWork activities of the HumBio Curriculum for Middle Grades have been developed to foster a collaborative environment for groups of students. Students plan experiments, collect and review data, ask questions and offer solutions, use data to explain and justify their arguments, discuss ideas and negotiate conflicting interpretations, summarize and present findings, and explore the societal implications of the scientific enterprise. In short, GroupWork activities provide an environment in which students are “doing science” as a team.

For more information, refer to “Using GroupWork Activities” on TE page 132. The specific GroupWork activities for this unit can be found on TE pages 135-161.

Projects

The research and action projects in HumBio are varied and provide students with time to explore a particular topic in depth. With Projects, students have the opportunity to take a position based on knowledge gained through research, debate an issue, and devise a plan of action. In this way, students can apply what they are learning to larger issues in the world around them.

Projects for this unit include

  • Research Questions
  • Mind and Body
  • Sleep and Dreams

Assessment Overview

Within each section of the unit there are suggestions for assessment that can be used individually or in combination to develop a complete assessment package. The list below describes the variety of assessment tools provided.

Apply Your Knowledge Questions appear throughout each section. They can be used as homework assignments and as ways to initiate a class discussion. These questions are designed to assess

  • communication skills
  • depth of thought and preparation
  • problem-solving skills
  • ability to apply concepts to related or big ideas
  • how well students relate their new knowledge to different problems

What Do You Think

These questions appear in each section. They provide students with opportunities to think and write about the concepts they are learning in a larger context. You can use these Questions to assess

  • writing skills
  • problem-solving abilities
  • creativity and depth of thought
  • the ability to analyze and summarize

Journal Writing prompts are suggested throughout the unit. These prompts provide opportunities for students to write critically and creatively about concepts and issues. The writing products can be used to assess

  • writing skills
  • depth of thought
  • the ability to explain and expand on concepts and issues

Review Questions

Review Questions are located at the end of each section. These Questions can be used for written responses or as the basis for class discussion. These questions are designed to assess content knowledge and whether students can explain the concepts explored in the section.

Activity-Based Assessment

Inquiry-base student-centered activities are the foundation of the, Human Biology Program. The unit is rich with relevant and exciting activities that introduce, support, or reinforce concepts students are exploring. Within the Teacher's Guide, you'll find extensive teacher information, including assessment strategies, for each type of activity:

  • Embedded Activities
  • Enrichment Activities
  • Mini Activities
  • GroupWork
  • Projects

You can use students' products to assess their progress. These products include models, simulations, reports of laboratory investigations, role-plays, written responses to questions and written observations, student-designed explorations and procedures, poster presentations, and classroom presentations.

PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT

You may want to have your students develop a portfolio of the unit. A sample assessment portfolio of the unit might contain the following items:

  • Written responses to three What Do You Think? questions.
  • Written responses to one Apply Your Knowledge question from each section.
  • An analysis of their two favorite activities and how those activities helped them learn an important concept.
  • Reports from three laboratory investigation such as the following.
Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap
Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons
Activity 6-1: Connecting Your Brain and Muscles
  • A model from Activity 5-2: Designing and Building a Model of the Eye
  • An example of calculations from Activity 4-1: How Fast Is Your Reaction Time?

Getting Started

Keep Students Interested. Encourage students to read the text: It is the story line that ties all of the content together. Every effort has been made to make the text interesting to students and appropriate to their reading level. Text material can be used to introduce, reinforce, and extend the concepts addressed within the activities.

The success of the unit depends on the completion of at least the Embedded activities. And keep in mind that some activities are related since the data obtained in one may be used in another.

Plan Ahead. The unit is activity-based, and you can select the activities that will best meet your class' needs. The activities are listed in the Unit Matrix on pages xiv-xv and in the Activity Index on page 171. Mini Activities are shorter and can be done with minimal teacher input; they are located in the margin of the student edition. The Embedded activities in the student text are investigations that require some planning and setup time; these are the essential activities within the unit. Other investigations called Enrichment activities are located at the end of each section in the Teacher's Guide. Enrichment activities expand student knowledge of the concepts explored in the given section.

A variety of projects were designed to extend the content of the unit. These include ongoing class projects, school projects, and/or community projects. Projects are located at the end of the Teacher's Guide, beginning on page 162.

Customize the Unit. Each section of this unit builds upon knowledge gained in the previous sections. Teaching timelines are provided on TE pages xxii-xxiii. The first timeline demonstrates how to complete this unit within a three-week schedule. The second timeline demonstrates how to complete this unit within a five-week schedule. Both of these timelines highlight the essential activities. If your class has time to study the unit over a longer period of time, many additional activities are available.

Allow Time for Projects. Consider having students start projects at the beginning of the unit and then prepare those projects for presentation as a culminating event.

Use Current Events. Ask students to bring in newspaper and magazine articles that relate to what they are studying each week. Relating the unit content to current events helps students see that what they are doing in class is, in fact, relevant to their lives outside of school. Students can use current events to make group scrapbooks, bulletin boards, and posters or to develop class presentations.

Make a “question box” available. Have students write down questions they have about what they are investigating and put them in the box, At appropriate times select questions and read them to the class to generate discussion. These questions can also be used to initiate class research projects.

Use a Variety of Resources. We encourage you and your students to use a wide variety of sources for information. The activities provide rich opportunities for students to explore a variety of concepts. The more students incorporate information from resources outside the classroom, the richer their learning experiences will be. Use computer services for gathering student and teacher information, for networking with students in different schools and with community resources, and for contacting experts in the field under study. A list of resources can be found on page 168 of this Teacher's Guide.

Make Career Connections. Encourage students to investigate careers related to the content of the unit. Invite scientists, physicians, and technologists working in the field to come to your classroom to discuss career opportunities, their research, and specific topics of interest.

Plan for Field Trips. Field trips to local hospitals, industrial sites, or universities need, of course, to be arranged well in advance. Contact the public affairs offices of these institutions for assistance.

Address Health Concerns. Be aware of any special health problems your students may have, Some students may have health conditions that would make it uncomfortable for them to participate in certain activities, such as those that require exercise or that relate directly to their particular health problems. For students unable to participate fully in these activities you may wish to create an alternative assignment or have them use data from another group. If the class is appropriately prepared, the affected students may want to share information about their special circumstances with the class in order to increase empathy and knowledge of all students.

Connect with Other HumBio Units. The units covering human physiological systems, cell biology, and genetics are related. There are many opportunities to make connections among the concepts taught in these units. Similarly, the three units covering the biological, behavioral, and social aspects of adolescent development can be taught in sequence.

Connect with Other Disciplines. The interdisciplinary web provided is a guide for planning if your school uses an interdisciplinary team approach. The web classifies the unit's activities and projects by related discipline-language arts, math, social studies, physical education, health/nutrition, and visual/performing arts, and science. For interdisciplinary planning, schedule meetings with your team early. You are encouraged to tap the talents and interests of your team members as well as of your unique school and community resources in developing other suitable activities for this unit.

Connect with the Home. Give special attention to the unit activities as a means of involving family and community members. Also, encourage your students to take selected Apply Your Knowledge questions and Mini Activities home for further exploration.

Teaching Timelines

You can use these timelines as a place to start in designing your own timelines, or you can use them as they are laid out. If you're planning your own timeline, consider the inclusion of the Embedded activities first. The “Embedded activities” are included in the student edition. The Enrichment activities, GroupWork activities, and Projects can then be included, depending on your time restrictions. The timelines are guides that can vary if some activities are done at home or in other classes in addition to science class.

We realize it may not be possible to do all the activities shown on these timelines. If you need to remove activities, be careful not to remove any activities critical to the content of the unit. You may want to divide the activities among interdisciplinary members of your teaching team.

Page references in this chart refer to the student edition, except when Enrichments are suggested. The page references for Enrichments refer to this Teacher's Guide.

Option 1: Three Week Timeline
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1

Introduce Section 1

Activity 1-1: The Blood-Brian Barrier

Mini Activity: Egghead

Mini Activity: Self-Portraits

Introduce Section 2

Activity 2-1: Big Brian on a Stick

Mini Activity: Brain Study

conclude Activity 2-1: Big Brian on a Stick Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap Review Section 1 & 2
Week 2

Introduce Section 3

Mini Activity: Building a 3-D Model of a Neuron

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

Introduce Section 4

Mini Activity: The Knee Jerk Reflex

Activity 4-1: How Fast Is Your Reaction Time?

Mini Activity: React First, Think Later

Review Section 3 & 4
Week 3

Introduce Section 5

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

Assign Mini Activity: Pupils In a Different Light

Activity 5-2: Designing and Building a Model of the Eye

or

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye (Dissection)

Introduce Section 6

Activity 6-1: Connection Your Brain and Muscles

or

Activity 6-2: Moving Muscles

Activity 6-3: The Nervous System and Muscles Working Together

Introduce Section 7

Activity 7-1: Cortical Experiences

Activity 7-2: Improving Your Memory

Summarize and review Sections 5, 6, and 7

Unit assessment

Option 2: Five Week Timeline
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1

Introduce Section 1

Mini Activity: Billions and Billions

Activity 1-1: The Blood-Brian Barrier

Mini Activity: Egghead

Mini Activity: Self-Portraits

Introduce Section 2

Mini Activity: Brain Study

Activity 2-1: Big Brian on a Stick

Conclude Activity 2-1: Big brain on a Stick

Mini Activity: Brain on Your Hand

Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap
Week 2

Review Section 1 & 2

Mini Activity: Building a 3-D Model of a Neuron

Introduce Section 3

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

Share 3-D Models of a Neuron

Review Section 3

Introduce Section 4

Mini Activity: The Knee Jerk Reflex

Week 3

Activity 4-1: How Fast is Your Reaction Time?

Mini Activity: React First, Think Later

Review Section 4 Introduce Section 5

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

Mini Activity: How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Introduce Activity 5-2: Designing and Building a Model of the Eye
Week 4

Mini Activities: Pupils in a Different Light

Use Your Sensors

Mini Activities: What Are the Advantages of Two Eyes?

Eye Dominance

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye (Dissection) Conclude Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye (Dissection)

Summarize Section 5.

Assign Mini Activity: Learning More about Nervous System Disorders

Week 5

Introduce Section 6

Activity 6-1: Connecting Your Brain and Muscles

Activity 6-2: Moving Muscles

Review Section 6

Introduce Section 7

Activity 7-1: Cortical Experiences

Activity 7-2: Improving Your Memory

Begin Activity 7-3: Your Nervous System in Action

Discuss Mini Activity: How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Unit Review and Assessment

Safety for Teachers

  • Always perform an experiment or demonstration on your own before allowing students to perform the activity. Look for possible hazards. Alert students to possible dangers. Safety instructions should be given each time an experiment is begun.
  • Wear glasses, not contact lenses. Make sure you and your students wear safety goggles in the lab when performing any experiments.
  • Do not tolerate horseplay or practical jokes of any kind.
  • Do not allow students to perform any unauthorized experiments.
  • Never use mouth suction in filling pipettes with chemical reagents.
  • Never “force” glass tubing into rubber stoppers.
  • Use equipment that is heat resistant.
  • Set good safety examples when conducting demonstrations and experiments.
  • Turn off all hot plates and open burners when they are not in use and when leaving the lab.
  • When students are working with open flames, remind them to tie back long hair and to be aware of loose clothing in order to avoid contact with flames.
  • Make sure you and your students know the location of and how to use fire extinguishers, eyewash fountains, safety showers, fire blankets, and first-aid kits.
  • Students and student aides should be fully aware of potential hazards and know how to deal with accidents. Establish and educate students on first-aid procedures.
  • Teach students the safety precautions regarding the use of electricity in everyday situations. Make sure students understand that the human body is a conductor of electricity. Never handle electrical equipment with wet hands or when standing in damp areas. Never overload electrical circuits. Use 3-prong service outlets.
  • Make sure that electrical equipment is properly grounded. A ground-fault circuit breaker is desirable for all laboratory AC circuits. A master switch to cut off electricity to all stations is desirable for all laboratory AC circuits.
  • Make sure you and your students are familiar with how to leave the lab safely in an emergency. Be sure you know a safe exit route in the event of a fire or an explosion.

For Student Safety

Safety in the Classroom

  • Wear safety goggles in the lab when performing any experiments. Tie back long hair and tuck in loose clothing while performing experiments, especially when working near or with an open flame.
  • Never eat or drink anything while working in the science classroom. Only lab manuals, notebooks, and writing instruments should be in the work area.
  • Do not taste any chemicals for any reason, including identification.
  • Carefully dispose of waste materials as instructed by your teacher. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do not use cracked, chipped, or deeply scratched glassware, and never handle broken glass with your bare hands.
  • Lubricate glass tubing and thermometers with water or glycerin before inserting them into a rubber stopper. Do not apply force when inserting or removing a stopper from glassware while using a twisting motion.
  • Allow hot glass to cool before touching it. Hot glass shows no visible signs of its temperature and can cause painful burns. Do not allow the open end of a heated test tube to be pointed toward another person.
  • Do not use reflected sunlight for illuminating microscopes. Reflected sunlight can damage your eyes.
  • Tell your teacher if you have any medical problems that may affect your safety in doing lab work. These problems may include allergies, asthma, sensitivity to certain chemicals, epilepsy, or any heart condition.
  • Report all accidents and problems to your teacher immediately.

HANDLING DISSECTING INSTRUMENTS and PRESERVED SPECIMENS

  • Preserved specimens showing signs of de cay should not be used for lab observation or dissection. Alert your teacher to any problem with the specimen.
  • Dissecting instruments, such as scissors and scalpels, are sharp. Use a cutting motion directed away from yourself and your lab partner.
  • Be sure the specimen is pinned down firmly in a dissecting tray before starting a dissection.
  • In most cases very little force is necessary for making incisions. Excess force can damage delicate, preserved tissues.
  • Do not touch your eyes while handling preserved specimens. First wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Also wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap when you are finished with the dissection.

Image Attributions

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Authors:

Grades:

6 , 7 , 8

Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Apr 29, 2014
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