The following Projects are an assortment of long-term activities that can be completed individually, in groups or as a class. We have provided starting points for research and development; you and the students can work together to create a more detailed plan of action. Consider the following two recommendations. First, because of the amount of work involved in a Project, students should choose one of great interest to them. Second, to encourage excellence and promote student-student learning, students should present their finished projects to the rest of the class, to the school, and to the community, if appropriate.
Project 1: Research Questions
Project 1 differs from the others: it is a list of possible research topics organized according to some key ideas and addressed to students.
In assigning a Research Question, we ask that you allow students to choose their topic-either one provided or one of their own. You might also
- Specify length of piece.
- Make clear the purpose and the audience.
- Suggest sources and ideas for information.
- Provide in-class time for compiling information and writing.
- Require students to exchange papers and provide written feedback.
- Provide a breakdown of due-dates for the following stages: choice of topic, outline, rough draft, and final draft.
- Permit students to supplement a written report with a skit, a piece of artwork, a piece of music, a dance, a video, or a multimedia presentation.
Provide the students with evaluation criteria that include
- accuracy of the content based on guiding questions.
- clarity of writing.
- effective organization of main ideas.
- use of detailed examples or evidence to support their conclusions.
Project 1: Teacher Activity Notes - Research Questions
The following Research Questions require independent research. They are organized according to some key ideas and phrased in the form of a question.
- Do all animals have the same nervous system? Compare the human nervous system to that of another animal. Make sure you explain why this comparative study is both interesting and useful.
- What is a reflex? Compare a reflex action in humans with a reflex in another animal (e.g., the knee jerk in humans with the “righting reflex” in cats that helps them land on their feet). Answer the following questions: What is the purpose of the reflex? What are the similarities and differences in how each reflex is performed? What do these reflexes tell you about the nervous system in particular and about the organism in general?
- How are human sensory systems similar to and different from those of other animals? Compare the sensory abilities of humans to that of two other animals. For example, compare human sight to the sight abilities of hawks or other birds of prey. Or compare the sense of smell of humans to the sense of smell of dogs. You may want to use the theory of evolution to help explain similarities and differences. Make sure to explain the reasons this comparative study is both interesting and useful.
- Research how an invention that transmits, stores, or produces sound was invented. Explain its uses and its impacts on society. Examples include the telephone, phonograph, radio, television, CD player, headphones, ultrasound machines, and many more. If you or a family member has used this device, include those as experiences and insights about its effects.
- What is an invention that transmits, stores, or produces images? Examples include the TV, Projects VCR, film projector, computer, laser disc, and CD Rom. Research how a device was invented, its uses, and its impact on society. If you have used this device, include your own experiences and insights.
- What can harm your ears? Explore an infection, disease, or activity that can harm the ear. Examples “swimmer's ear” and listening to loud music. Select one and research its cause, prevention, and, where appropriate its cure. Offer recommendations of how people might use this information to create policies regarding this issue.
- What can harm your eyes? Explore an infection, disease, or activity that can harm the eye? Examples include pink eye and sports injuries. Select one and research its cause, prevention, and, where appropriate, its cure. Offer recommendations of how people might use this information to create policies regarding this issue.
- How is the human brain similar to and different from that of other animals? Compare the size, structure, and function of the human brain with those of another animal. Include reasons this comparative study is both interesting and useful.
- Have scientists always explained how the human brain works the way we do now? Trace the history of scientists' knowledge of the brain's structure and function over the past 50 years.
- Will computers ever become as intelligent as humans? Research the current state of artificial intelligence. Answer the following questions: How is intelligence defined? How advanced are today's computers? Have scientists used their knowledge of the human brain to build computers? How does/will artificial intelligence impact your life? What are the predictions for the future?
- What is a disease that directly affects the human nervous system? Examples include muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's disease. Choose a disease that affects the nervous system primarily and research its cause, treatment, and/or prevention. What is the current state of research on this disease?
- What is paralysis? How does it occur? What are scientists and doctors doing to help people who are paralyzed? What are research scientists doing to help “cure” paralysis?
Project 2: Teacher Activity Notes - Mind and Body
Summary Students learn about the connection between “mind and body” (how the health of the body can affect the mind and the health of the mind can affect the body) by researching and comparing various biomedical and social science theories about the possible connections between mind and body.
Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Health
- Two weeks for research and planning
- Three or four class periods for presentations
Books and magazine articles that cover the topic of mind and body, such as Scientific American articles and other science or psychology magazines, as well as Web sites such as the National Institute for Mental Health and the Society for Neuroscience.
- Discuss with students the idea of a connection between mind and body. People in different places and at different times have argued that the mind and body are closely connected, that the state of one's mind affects the state of one's body and vice versa. What is their opinion? Does your body's condition affect your mind's thoughts and feelings? Does a healthy mind ensure a healthy body?
- As, a class, create a hypothetical community health action project that involves promoting the health of the mind as well as the body, integrating the theories of the groups you've studied when you feel they enhance the program. For example, you may decide to build a library and a fitness club next to each other. Or you may decide that a health spa and relaxation center would benefit the community.
- Have students prepare a persuasive presentation to convince the local city council that your proposal would benefit the community, using their research and the scientific evidence of the connection between mind and body. They can then present their project to another class, parents, members of the community, or the real city council.
Use the group discussions, action plan, and presentation to assess if students can
- identify scientific and nonscientific theories about the interaction between mind an body.
- critically analyze each theory based on their knowledge of the nervous system.
- explain what they think about the interaction between the mind and body.
- use detailed examples and/or cite evidence to support their opinion.
- develop a community health plan that involves the health of the mind, as well as the body.
Project 3: Teacher Activity Notes - Sleep and Dreams
Summary Students learn about the purpose and effects of sleeping and dreaming in relation to the nervous system by conducting experiments and then presenting and comparing their results with others.
Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Health
- Two class periods to plan the experiment
- Two to three weeks to conduct the experiment, either in or outside class
- Three to four periods to present and compare research results in class
Books, magazine, videos on the topic of sleep and/or dreams, Internet sites such as the Society for Neuroscience, and CD Roms about the nervous system. (If possible, invite an expert in the field to speak to your students.)
- Research results presented in data, graphs, written summaries
- Oral presentation of results
1. Introduce the topics of sleep and dreams by having students free-write for five or ten minutes about one of the following: a reoccurring nightmare, their favorite time and/or place to sleep, what they do when they can't fall asleep. Pose the following questions: Why do we sleep? What do our dreams mean? How do we know when to wake up? What connections do our dreams have to our nervous system? Then, break the class into small groups to share what they wrote.
2. Reconvene as a class and ask students to explain what they learned or what questions they raised in their small groups. Write their responses on the board, highlighting connections and starting points for research.
3. Either individually or in groups, have students choose one of the topics or questions generated by the class to research. Topics may also include
- the stages of sleep and the patterns of dreaming.
- why humans need sleep and what happens when they don't get enough.
- problems or diseases related to sleep such as insomnia and narcolepsy.
- drugs that prevent or encourage sleep like caffeine and depressants.
- sleeping patterns among individuals in different age groups or within one age group.
- the type and number of dreams people remember.
- the types of drugs people use to fall asleep and those used to stay awake, and their effects on the nervous system.
4. The first part of their research should involve getting a solid background in their topic through research using books, articles, Videos, CD Roms, and the Internet.
5. The second part of their research can be the implementation of a survey of classmates and adults, asking about sleep patterns and/or dream patterns. If students plan to examine patterns and types of dreams, they should tell their subjects to keep a notebook next to their bed and write down all that they remember upon waking.
6. After students have given their surveys to their target group and have compiled their results, have them present their findings to the class. After their presentations, discuss any conflicting data or similarities in students' research findings.
Use the research notes, presentation, and completed report to assess if students can
- generate a testable research question on the topic of sleep and dreams.
- conduct a literature review of work already completed on their research question.
- identify the variable(s) to be tested and include a control in the experimental design, if appropriate.
- write an experimental procedure that can be repeated by someone else.
- develop a procedure for collecting and recording data.
- collect quantifiable data through the use of surveys and/or interviews.
- construct a graph of the data.
- prepare a written and oral presentation to explain their results and conclusions.