Cellular Conversations: Explaining Cell Communication between Neurons!

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson

Objective

Students will develop and use models to demonstrate and explain in basic terms how neurons communicate with each other.

Big Idea

Brain activity depends on the communication between its cells.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

     Cell Communication is the sending and receiving signals between two or more cells. These signals come from the environment, or from other cells and trigger a response that must be transmitted across the cell membrane. Sometimes the signal itself can cross the membrane while others work by interacting with receptor proteins that contact both the outside and inside of the cell. In this case of neurons, only cells that have the correct receptors on their surface will receive and transmit the response for communicative purposes. In this lesson, students investigate the structure of the neuron and learn to demonstrate and explain how via chemical and electrical signals transmit information within the brain and consequently, throughout the body. 

Lesson Preparations:

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

a) Parts 1-3 of the lesson: Nerve Cell Communication Student Guide (for student pairs)

b) Materials according to page 1 of the Nerve Cell Communication Teacher Guide 

c) Student lab books.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP2- Developing and using models.

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 neurons). 

 

 

Engage

10 minutes

Section Instructional Sequence:

           In this section of the lesson, my goal is to introduce students to the body's need for sodium and it's means of introduction to the body. The idea is to get students engaged with the pros and cons of salt in the body so that they will inquire about salt's specific role in the body's metabolism. This activity proceeds as follows:

 a) Ask: Is salt really bad for you? Discuss. Share that we will learn more about this & play clip.

b) Post video, discuss the pros and cons of salt intake into the body and focus students' attention on why we have recommended amounts to consume daily. Discuss until students clarify that the body needs it for critical processes.  

Explore

30 minutes

Section Primer:

         Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which allow the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next across synapses. They are critical to the neuron's ability to initiate and propagate signals from one cell to the next and are only attached to receiving cells that present  specific receptors that are unique to the neurotransmitters's chemistry & morphology.

Section Instructional Sequence: 

         In this section of the lesson, my goal is to introduce students to the concept of cell communication specifically between neurons. This activity proceeds as follows:

a) Disperse lab materials  (see introduction) and copies of the student handouts to every student pair. Share with students that we will use these materials to explore how and why we have a required salt intake daily. Instruct for them to Complete Part 1(1-5) and Obtain initials when done.

b) Instruct for students to use the materials from part two (anatomy and function labels) to affix to their neuron models. Advance Slide 1 and allow guide students through model accuracy. 

c) Instruct students to look at the beads (red, yellow, and white) in the bag. Ask: Which color of bead do you think best represents a neurotransmitter (chemical signal molecule) that would work to send a chemical message from the sending neuron to the receiving neuron? Discuss.

d) Instruct students to add neurotransmitter molecules to their models by placing one of the colored of bead that they selected into each of the vesicles.

e) Instruct students to complete part 3 of their student sheets (1-14).

f) Ask: Can anyone explain at this point why we require a daily intake of salt? Discuss.  

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and using models.

Explain

20 minutes

Section Sequence:

           In this section of the lesson, my goal is to provide a fluid explanation of the students' modeling experiences in the previous section. The idea is to correct any misunderstandings and to present a more fluid representation of what they have come to understand as a transmission of signals in neurons.  This activity proceeds as follows:

 a) Share with students that we will look at this process from a more fluid perspective and proceed to play the following:

                            

b) Prior to and while viewing the video, instruct for students to record questions and/or notes that may have not been made clear from their exploration activity in their lab books. The idea is for students to connect static representations of an action potential to an active one. Therefore, discussion throughout is imperative to reconciling any disconnects and addressing student questions. 

Note: pause the video when necessary to discuss and connect specific/important points (eg. action potentials) as it relates to their modeling experiences. 

c) Post video, Ask: What happens to neurotransmitters that are released? Discuss possibilities.

d) Finally, Complete part 3 #18 of student handouts and discuss as a class. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and using models.

 

Extend

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

           In this section of the lesson, my goal is to help students to understand what occurs after neurotransmitters are released from the the signaling cell or pre-synaptic neuron. This activity proceeds as follows:

a) As a class, read and simulate Part 3, #19's scenario from the student manual. Share with students that they will now see this normal reuptake mechanism in action as well as what happens to those actions when the reuptake process is inhibited as a result of drugs in the body. Proceed to play the following: 

       

b) Prior to and while viewing the video, instruct for students to record questions and/or notes that may have not been made clear from the activity in Part 3 in their lab books. The idea is for students to connect static representations of neurotransmitter release to an active one. Therefore, discussion throughout is imperative to reconciling any disconnects and addressing student questions. 

c) Instruct for students to explain/illustrate how drugs like cocaine inhibit neurotransmitter reuptake and propagate the euphoric sensation for an extended period of time in their lab books. Furthermore, discuss as a class the short term problems that this may cause for the action potential process of the neurons impacted by the drug. 

Standards Covered:

SP2- Developing and using models.

Evaluate

20 minutes

Section Sequence:

           In this section of the lesson, my goal is to assess what students have learned in this lesson. This activity proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 2: Read the question to the class while providing students their evaluation sheets. Instruct for students to use the illustrations beneath the question to address question 1 on their sheet. Review as a class on the board. 

b) Repeat step a with slides 3-4 and questions 2-3 on student evaluation sheets. 

c) Instruct for students to turn in their evaluation sheets and clean up materials.