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3.1: Planning

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

Key Ideas

  • Brain structures such as the brain stem and cerebellum control 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 recalling 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.


Building on the overview of the brain in the first section, students investigate the structure and function of the brain. They learn about “brain geography” by focusing on each part of the brain and its functions. They compare the structural relationship between the brain and spinal cord to the design of a car gearshift. Students build and use several different kinds of models to help demonstrate how the brain works.



\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} identify and describe the major parts of the brain including the cerebrum, cerebellum, medulla, thalamus, hypothalamus, and spinal cord.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} describe the special features designed to protect the human brain.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} explain the function of the different parts of the brain.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} distinguish between the parts of the brain that control body function and the parts of the brain that control thinking/information processing.


electrodes, electroencephalogram (EEG)

Lobes of the cerebral hemispheres:

frontal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurobiologist

Parts of the brain:

brain stem, cerebellum, cerebral cortex, cerebral hemispheres, or cerebrum, thalamus, hypothalamus

Student Materials

Activity 2-1: Big Brain on a Stick

  • Resource
  • Activity Report
  • Illustration of brain and spinal cord
  • Soft wood, such as pine or fir:

a. 2 pieces, \begin{align*}8'' \times 5'' \times 2''\end{align*} (for cerebral hemispheres)

b. 1 piece: \begin{align*}2 \ \frac{1}{2}'' \times 2'' \times 1''\end{align*} (for hypothalamus and thalamus)

c. 1 piece, \begin{align*}1 \ \frac{1}{2}'' \times 1'' \times 20''\end{align*} (for spinal cord)

d. 1 piece, \begin{align*}2'' \times 2'' \times 4''\end{align*} (for cerebellum)

(If possible, use a different type/color of wood for A-D to help students distinguish the different parts of the completed model.)

  • Template indicating shapes of parts of nervous system
  • Saws and sandpaper
  • Safety goggles
  • Glue and/or nut-bolt assembly
  • Paper
  • \begin{align*}\frac{3}{4}''\end{align*} masking tape
  • Colored pencils
  • Black marker, fine point
  • Bike helmet (optional)

Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap

  • Resource
  • Activity Report
  • Large paper grocery bag; scissors; transparent tape; colored pencils and/or marking pens; clear plastic wrap; mirror

Teacher Materials

Activity 2-1: Big Brain on a Stick

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • A completed “Brain on a Stick” model is useful in helping students visualize the end product as they prepare and assemble the “Big Brain on a Stick” model.
  • Bike helmet, different styles if possible
  • Additional anatomy/ physiology texts or a CD-ROM and charts showing brain structure and function.

Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap

Activity Report Answer Key

  • Extra supply of student materials

Advance Preparation

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

Activity 2-1: Big Brain on a Stick

  • Allow sufficient time for advance construction of the model parts.
  • Invite others to help prepare model parts. An industrial arts teacher, older students, a scout troop, parents, and/ or a lumberyard could provide preparation of models.
  • The description on the Resource can be given to the person(s) who will prepare model parts.
  • If it is impossible to make multiple models, it is strongly recommended that one model be made for demonstration purposes. Construct a model as a class or student project. Models can be retained for future use.

Activity 2-2: Thinking Cap

  • Collect large paper grocery bags-one per student. Large grocery bags can often be obtained or purchased inexpensively from the supermarket.

Interdisciplinary Connections

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

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