Thinking Inside the Box (Exploring the Internal Anatomy of the Brain)!

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Objective

Students will be able to interpret and analyze data in order to identify the major parts of the brain and explain their functions.

Big Idea

Although great in complexity the brain's highly condensed size aids in its ability to control all functions of the body.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

        The brain is a highly specialized organ in the body developed for flexible wiring to aid in an organisms ability to survive in various environments. In this lesson, students learn to recognize the locale and function of the brain's anatomical parts in the effort to establish both a visual and contextual foundation needed to comprehend later units which explore these altered brain regions in detail. This lesson, the second of a five lesson unit, specifically sets the stage for students to comprehend the dichotomy of the nervous system and explain the influence of hormones on the brain's capacity to respond to outside stimuli. 

Lesson Preparations:

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

a) A class set of Sheep Brains (One brain for each pair of students) and dissection pans.

b) A class set of protective wear (non-latex gloves, lab coats and safety glasses)

c) A class set of rulers and scissors.

d) Student lab books.

e) Wooden toothpicks per student pair. 

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

HS-LS4-1: Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. 

Standards Rationale:

       Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. It is intimately connected to other scientific processes (asking questions, communicating information, etc.) and improves students ability to recall scientific jargon through association. In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in modeling practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit. In this lesson modeling is used in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (structure and function of the brain). 

Engage

10 minutes

Section Primer:

         A brain positron emission tomography scan or PET Scan is an imaging test of the brain. It uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease or injury in the brain. A PET scan shows how the brain and its tissues are working. This is critical to the area of neuroscience as it permits a snapshot of neural activity without causing harm to subject in question.

Section Sequence: 

       The goal of this section is to introduce students to PET Scans and discuss their influence on imaging the internal structure and function of the brain. This provides a transition into exploring what we have now understand as distinct brain tissue structure & function. This activity is sequenced as follows:

a) Slide 1: Ask the class "What do you think these images tell us?" & facilitate class discussion. Show the following clip & allow for students to revisit and revise their responses post video.         

       

b) Slide 2: Review the parts & function of the external brain's and verbalize to the class that they will now explore the parts of the brain that PET Scans have allowed for us to understand better; it's internal components! 

Standards Covered:

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

 

Explore

45 minutes

Section Sequence:

        In this section, my goal is to introduce students to the internal anatomy of the human brain using sheep brain as models. As opposed to direct dissections, students compare and contrast the model organism of practice to the one of focus in a more inquiry based manner. This activity proceeds as follows:

a) Provide each student with a Sheep Brain Dissection Activity Sheet and challenge them to locate and label the actual human brain (Lower image) with the terms displayed on the screen. 

b) After demonstrating how to divide the hemispheres properly to the class and explaining how to complete the data chart on the activity sheet, provide each student pair with a sheep brain and dissection materials. Permit for students to open and explore the parts of the sheep brain and to record observations in column 2 only.

c) Discuss discoveries and discrepancies. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

HS-LS4-1: Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. 

Explain

15 minutes

Section Primer:

          Autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. In unit 2, students learned that the lack of pruning (disconnecting synapses in the brain) is a major developmental factor in the onset of this condition. In this unit, students will extend this experience by learning about the structures of the brain that are directly implicated in autism while reinforcing terminology acquired.

Section Sequence:

          In this section of the lesson, students learn about the functions of the internal brain regions previously identified in the exploration section. To make this a little more interesting, students learn these functions as they relate to behaviors observed in autistic individuals. This section progresses as follows:

a) Slide 3: Review and discuss the behaviors of autistic individuals learned in Unit 2, Lesson 3. Ask: *Based on this information, what do you think the boxes will reveal about the functions of these areas since they represent areas implicated in autism?  Discuss responses as specific to students knowledge as possible.

*Note students aren't clear on the functions of these areas yet. They are merely basing their inferences on their prior knowledge. Tell students that specific anatomical areas don't have to be specified. Simply distill the list of functions mentioned to get students to actively predict the functions of these newly identified parts of the brain.

b) Slide 4: Unveil and discuss the roles of the brain shown on the slide's image. Allow students to summarize and record these functions in column 3 of their sheep brain worksheets. Encourage students to stake these specified areas on their physical brain models while filling in their charts to increase association between form and function. 

Standards Covered: 

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

HS-LS4-1: Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. 

Extend

10 minutes

Section Primer: 

        White and Grey matter are bundles of nerve fibers (called neurons) that convey nerve impulses between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. The major difference between white and gray matter within the spinal cord is that white matter is primarily composed of myelinated nerve fibers, while the nerve fibers of gray matter are not. Myelinated nerve cells tremendously increase the speed at which the action potential (nerve impulse) moves along the neurons axon. 

Section Sequence: 

         In this section of the lesson, my goal is to help students to understand the differences of color evident on their halved sheep brains. By this point students have learned the about the major structures seen but not the significance of the color that they reside in. The is activity is sequenced as follows:

a) Slide 5: Ask "What does this image show us on our brain models that we have yet to discuss?" Discuss and challenge students to learn as much as they can in the next frame about Gray matter in 2 minutes flat. Advance slide 6, time students and advance the next slide before discussing their discoveries. 

b) Slide 7: Ask "What does brain color matter?" rhetorically and proceed to the clip below. Post video, discuss the differences between grey and white matter as students examine their distinct locales on their brain sheep models. Finally, instruct students to sketch and label the form and function of both gray and white matter in their lab books. (See labeling white and gray matter in the reflection section) 

        

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms. 

HS-LS4-1: Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.

Evaluate

10 minutes

Section Sequence: In this section of the lesson, my goal is to get students to conceptualize why sheep brains are ideal for studying the human brain while evaluating them. I proceed as follows:

a)  Slide 8: Ask "How do sheep brain studies help us to understand the human brain better?" Play the following video and stop at 30 seconds. Revisit the previously stated question and discuss.

       

b) Post video discussion, instruct students to revisit their lab sheet images, dissected models and consider the information presented in the preceding video (as well as their personal knowledge of sheep behaviors) as they complete the final column of their worksheet.

How can I assess students work?

    While instructing students to complete the final column, encourage them to consider functions of these areas and the similarities and differences in behaviors of human and sheep. Ask: Might this shape and size (perhaps surface area and neuron density) influence these differences? Tell students that you are looking for clarity of function with respect to the sheep's varied form. This assures that students are considering the content and building somewhat objective arguments. Finally, have students craft a statement that explains why sheep brains are great animal models for human research studies like those involving autism.  

Assign value points to each justification point and student final statement for grading purposes. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms. 

HS-LS4-1: Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.