Fetal Brain Development Explained (Day 2)!

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Objective

Students will analyze data and develop models to describe the genetic and environmental factors that impact fetal brain development during its gestational period.

Big Idea

Healthy brain development is a product of both genetic and environmental factors!

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

See Fetal Brain Development Explained Day 1 for lesson background and justification specifics.

Instructor's Note:

       This lesson is divided into two ninety minute instructional blocks. Day one, the previous lesson, addresses the Engagement, Exploratory and the Explanation areas of the 5E Model Lesson Plan. The second day addresses the second half of the 5E Model specifically, the Extension and Evaluation activities.

Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place: 

a) Several rolls of scotch tape and/or glue sticks. 

b) A class set of rulers and scissors.

c) Student lab books 

d) 1 roll of receipt paper & 16 index cards for each group of 4 students.

Common Core and NGSS Standards and Standards Rationale:

 See Fetal Brain Development Explained Day 1 for standards specifications. 

Extend

45 minutes

Section Primer: 

      Shortly after the 16th week of gestation, embryos utilize strategically placed nerve cells and specific mechanisms to initiate a cellular dialogue or Synaptogenesis within the brain to aid in the establishment and strengthening of connections in the brain for learning. This process followed by Apoptosis or Atophogy (programmed cell death), Myelination (the production of an insulating material called myelin which wraps around nerve axons), and Synaptic Pruning (the reduction of the overall number of neurons and synapses) respectively serves as a continuous grooming practice to establish neuron quantity and quality for future activity. In this section of the lesson, students explore the first three processes in general detail as a final milestone to comprehend fetal brain development.   

Section Instructional Sequence:

          In this section of the lesson, my goal is to provide students with the final milestones of fetal brain development so that they may eventually tell a complete tale of this event. Using a combination of video, kinesthetic activity and discussion, students learn to explain specific terminology related to these final events. I present this set of activity in the following sequence:

a) I verbally instruct for students to obtain their lab books, and to turn to their last recorded page. I then solicit for students to share their hypothesis on autism and brain development from the previous class and to explain their thoughts. We share for 2-5 minutes as a means of reviewing and for warming up to the continuation of the lesson. 

b) I advance to slide 1 and state that our objective today is to wrap up our understanding of critical milestones of fetal brain developed which are emphasized in red on the graphic. I continue, it is then our additional ambition to understand how science is advancing in the efforts to prevent autism by studying these early milestones alone. 

c) I then advance to slide 2 and state to students that following neuronal migration activity in the formation of our early brains, that several brain grooming processes are critical to the brain's lasting function. I then tell students that we will view a series of video clips that will help us to understand these process with greater clarity. 

d) I then instruct for students to record the following questions and that they will address them during the video:

    1) When do our brain cells begin to make connections with others ?

    2) How does this process work and why is it important?

e) I then proceed to play the following video (starting at the 2 minute mark) and allow for students to share their responses post video.

 Making Connections 

f) I then verbally share with students that  while all of the connections made in the brain are great that some if not used are lost in the connection process. I introduce how these unused cells are degraded via an Apoptosis video. (Simulate with class)

g) In the effort to get students to visualize why neuron death is needed for processing efficiency, I direct students to simulate the process of nerve cell communication by having students pass a red ball from a designated point A to point B by using all students as needed neurotransmitter carriers. This is timed and repeated but modified with the goal of establishing a different & more efficient pathway. This time if students are skipped over in doing so, they must physically simulate apoptosis and remove themselves from the "network". This process is repeated until students discover the most efficient pathway and are able to articulate why early apoptosis in the brain is necessary for human survival.  

h) Next I instruct for students to record the following questions to address during the next video which explains the next step in development: Myelination (start at 2:00 minutes):

    1) What is neural myelination?

    2) Provide an analogy that generally describes the importance of myelination of nerve cells.

h) I then proceed to play the following video What is Myelination? and allow for students to share their responses post video.

i) Finally, I repeat steps d-e with the following video How early does Myelination Occur? and its corresponding tasks:

    1) Using various colors of construction paper, scissors and glue create a visual progression/representation of myelination and verbally explain why it is important in making the brain a more efficient thinking tool. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Evaluate

30 minutes

Section Primer:

       Synaptic Pruning (the reduction of the overall number of neurons and synapses) in addition to other preceding activities serves as a continuous grooming practice to establish neuron quantity and quality for the brain's future activities. In this section of the lesson, students explore the process of pruning and are evaluated on their abilities to develop a timeline of brain developmental events and their ability to propose where on their timelines can Autism be potentially prevented. 

Section Instructional Sequence: In this section of the lesson, my goal is to get students to bring their understanding of fetal brain development full circle to the engagement activity of this lesson. Using a combination of video, discussion and timeline construction, students are directed to ponder what events and/or processes in fetal brain development contribute to the presence and thus prevention of specific conditions, like autism. I present this activity in the following sequence: 

a) I advance the power point presentation to slide three and state to the class, in a minute you are going to retrieve a copy of the fetal brain developmental images seen here in addition to other materials and will construct a visual timeline on the underpinning events that drives the succession of one physical status to the next. In other words, all of the events that we learned up until this point regarding fetal brain development. 

b) I then direct students to the set of materials (tape, glue, scissors, receipt tape rolls, markers and images) to secure for the activity. 

c) Next, I advance to slide 4 and provide specific directions on how to develop a timeline and to use the graphic on the screen as an example. I share the following timeline specifications with students as well: a) Gestation period as featured on the screen, b) placement of images on the proper place on the timeline, c) incorporation of the major developmental milestone events (Myelination, Migration, Neuronal Specialization, Neuronal Growth, Apoptosis/Atrophy, and Synaptogenesis) and d) brief descriptions of each event encapsulated in parentheses. I give students 20 minutes to complete this task. See an example of student timeline example in the resource section of this lesson. 

As students complete the task, I circulate and discuss any discrepancies of proper timeline progressions or event summaries. The timeline serves as the assessment product for this lesson. (see reflection)

d) Next, I bring students attention to their autism hypothesis and instruct for them to record on their timelines, a proposed placement of the terms Hypothesized Autism Treatment to reflect their hypothesis. I then share with them to consider the following information presented by the scientific community as a proposed hypothesis to treat Autism and to update their timelines according to this information using the terms Scientific Hypothesis for Autism. I proceed with the showing of the following video. 

 e) Post video, we as a class discuss the following questions:

1) Why is it essential to understand fetal brain development in order to treat or prevent brain disorders? 

Potential probing questions to elicit student thinking and responses include:

* Examine your timelines. Why is it important for us to know what happens in the steps before and after each developmental stage if we want to study it in depth?

* If some brain disorders don't show signs of its existence until years after the child is born, why is it important for us to understand what happens in the fetus's brain development in its prenatal stage?

2) Why do you think that your hypothesis differed from the scientific community's?

 Potential probing questions to elicit student thinking and responses include:

 * Revisit your timelines again and physically point out the stage that you predicted to be the genesis of autistic problems. Justify your original thought. 

 * Now physically place another finger on the stage where autistic problems originate. How does this compare and contrast to your original prediction?

3) What in addition to fetal brain development will we need to understand before we can test out medications to treat disorders such as autism?

Potential probing questions to elicit student thinking and responses include:

 * When chemists develop new drugs to make us well, what sorts of things do you think they have to consider about humans in general to make the drug a good fit for the patient?

 * Beyond fetal brain development, are there other items of consideration that we need to explore before we produce a drug or treatment suitable to target the brain specifically?

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.