K-1: The Senses
The Brain and Body
Ask students, Have you ever bumped your toe, cut yourself, or had a fall? Do you remember feeling the pain? How do you think you received that information? Allow students time to respond. Clarify for them, Your brain received the pain messages and told you! But how does it work?
Explain that the person represented in the body outline on the board has just bumped his or her toe. Immediately, he or she feels the pain. Ask, How does a person detect an injury so quickly? Request a student volunteer. Give him or her a piece of yarn to connect the toe to the head of the body cutout.
Ask, Do you think this is how it works? Can a signal travel through air from your toe to your brain? If not, what path might it follow?
Entwine several strands of yarn and extend them from the base of the brain to below the waist. Ask students what the yarn might represent. Help them understand that nerve fibers connect all parts of the body and brain, and that the bundle of yarn represents the spinal cord. Explain that bones protect the spinal cord, just as the skull bones protect the brain. Have each student feel his or her own backbone (spinal column).
Extend another piece of yarn from the toe to the spinal cord, and on to the brain. Explain that nerves throughout the body send signals to the brain, and that those signals travel through the spinal cord. (Signals from the face and head are an exception; they connect through the brainstem to the brain.)
Have each student use several strands of yarn to create a spinal cord for his/her body puzzle, and then connect the spinal cord to the toe with an additional piece of yarn. In real life, nerves conduct signals in only one direction. So one set of connected neurons would send a pain signal to the brain, and different neurons would send messages back to muscles to move away from the source of pain.
Encourage students to create “nerve” connections from different parts of their puzzle bodies to the spinal cord, and from the spinal cord to the brain. The class may do this as a group by using the classroom human body diagram. Instruct students where to add connections, if you feel they need more guidance.
Explain that all of parts of the body, including sensory organs (eyes, ears, skin, etc.) are connected to the brain. Note that students will be learning how the different sensory receptors interact with the environment and send information to the brain.
If you wish to create “vertebrae” for the large classroom model, cups cut in half vertically or paper strips can serve as model for the backbone.
- Tharp, B., Vu, M., Mock, D., Burnett, C., and Moreno, N. (2015). K-1: The Senses Teacher’s Guide. Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-1-888997-87-3
- Illustration by Christopher Burnett © Baylor College of Medicine.
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Funded by the following grant(s)
National Institutes of Health: Blueprint for Neuroscience Education, National Institute on Drug Abuse and Science Education Partnership Award program, Office of the Director, Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Research Infrastructure Programs.
The Learning Brain: Interactive Inquiry for Teachers and Students
Grant Number: RD25DA033006