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4.1: Planning

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Ideas

  • 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.


In sections 1 and 2 students learned about the structure and function of the brain and the spinal cord. In this section they explore the structure and functions of neurons, the basic unit of the nervous system. Students design and build models of neurons showing dendrites, the axon, and cell body. They use these models to help explain how neurons carry messages in one direction only and how special chemicals called neurotransmitters carry information across the synapses (gaps between neurons.)



\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} identify and describe the function of each part of a nerve cell.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} explain how nerve impulses move from one neuron to another.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} demonstrate neuron structure and function using the 3-D model of a neuron.


axon, cell body, dendrites, glial cells, interneurons, motor neurons, neuron, neurotransmitter, sensory neurons, synapse

Student Materials

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

  • Activity Report
  • Markers, Crayons, Colored pencils, Construction paper

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

  • Activity Report
  • Resources 1, 2, and 3
  • Signs that read:

Message Sender

Message Receiver

Dopamine Pump


  • Two chairs
  • 20 to 30 tennis balls
  • Scissors; Yarn or string

Teacher Materials

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Sample pictures of neurons
  • Microscope slide of neuron

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Resources 1, 4, 5, and 6
  • Transparencies of Resources 2 and 3
  • Charts and other visuals showing the synapse between two neurons

Advance Preparation

See Activities 3-1 and 3-2 in the Student Edition.

Activity 3-1: Picture a Nerve Cell

Prior to this activity, encourage students to draw a neuron and explain its cellular structure. For discussion, see the introduction to Section 3 in the Student Edition.

  • Gather art materials or ask students to bring them.

Activity 3-2: Drug Effects on Neurons

  • Prior to the activity, have students read Resource 1 and discuss the content in class.
  • Gather materials and ask students to bring in tennis balls.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Physical Education and Health Discuss the effects of over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs on the brain. Investigate the effects of snakebites, chemical neurotoxins, and neurological diseases on the function of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Math Investigate metric system units such as microns by relating them to the size of the neurons.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Apr 29, 2014
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