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6.1: Planning

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

  • 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.


Students build on their knowledge of the nervous system from previous sections by investigating sensors as “windows to the world.” They actively explore what sensors are and how sensors help gather information about the environment. They learn about the structure and function of the eye and the ear by constructing models and by performing experiments to investigate their functions and limitations. Students can conduct a dissection of a mammalian eye by designing their own lab or by using the procedures provided.



\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} describe the role sensors play in receiving and transmitting nerve impulses.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} identify the parts of the eye.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} distinguish between rods and cones in the eye.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} compare the functions of eyes with that of a camera.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} identify the parts of the ear.

\begin{align*}\checkmark\end{align*} explain how the ears capture sound.


Parts of the ear:

anvil, cochlea, eardrum, Eustachian tube, hammer, pinna, stirrup

Parts of the eye:

cornea, iris, lens, optic nerve, pupil, retina

Student Materials

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

  • Activity Report
  • Activity Data Table
  • Objects of a variety of shapes and sizes; Gloves; blindfold; clock

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

  • Resource
  • Activity Report
  • Construction materials (as requested by students) such as construction paper; scissors; colored marking pens; string or colored yarns (to represent nerves, muscles, or eyelashes); old tennis balls or other round, hollow objects; plastic covers from containers (for the lens)

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye

  • Activity Report
  • Resource (If students will use prepared procedure)
  • Goggles; Sheep or cow eye; Paper towels; Dissection pan; Scalpel (single-edged cutting tool); Forceps; Scissors; Needle or metal probe

Teacher Materials

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

  • Data Table Answer Key
  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Sample Data Sheets on transparency
  • Optional: extra items for students to sort

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

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Large chart and/or model of the human eye
  • Optional: Computer simulation showing the structure and function of the human eye

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • Model or large diagram/chart of the eye
  • Resource (If students use prepared procedure)

Advance Preparation

See Activities 5-1, 5-2, and 5-3 in the Student Edition.

Activity 5-1: Using Your Sensors

  • Gather and organize optional materials so they are accessible to students.

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

  • Obtain large eye diagram and a selection of materials for constructing the models.

Activity 5-3: Exploring a Mammalian Eye

  • Obtain all student and teacher materials.


Music/Band Class Make connections between the structure and the function of the ear and how they relate to the perception of music. Explore tonal variations with different instruments.

Physical Education and Health Focus on how to protect hearing and eyesight as part of good health practices. Examine how corrective lenses and hearing aids can assist people whose vision and hearing needs to be augmented. Research ear protection required for certain occupations.

Language Arts Students use creative writing strategies to describe how sensory systems work.

Art Investigate how the brain perceives color and study examples of artwork that use depth perception and optical illusions.

Social Studies Investigate local regulations governing noise pollution.

Math Use variables and constants in setting up investigations. Study the properties of waves using formulas. Solve math problems relating to the speed of sound and the speed of light.

Enrichment Activity

Enrichment 5-1: Building a Model of the Ear

Background Information

Two kinds of information that are used to maintain balance are mentioned in the text. One primarily senses movement and the other position relative to gravity. The organ responsible for sensing movement is called the vestibular apparatus. It consists of two membranous sacs in which sensitive hair cells are embedded in a gelatinous mass. When you move or change direction of movement, the change in momentum of the mass bends the hair cells and sends nerve impulses to the brain. The organ responsible for sensing position is the semicircular canals. They are fluid-filled loops of tubules with different orientations. When the head changes position, the fluid moves through these tubes in specific ways. At the base of the tubes are clusters of hair cells that are bent by the moving fluid. The hair cells that are bent send nerve impulses to the brain.

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