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Grades 6 - 8


Students will see how the brain and central nervous system relate to their everyday lives. They will also learn that they employ four types of memory to carry out various tasks. In addition, students will learn how to measure their reaction times and get a chance to practice this skill.
ITV Series
Bill Nye, The Science Guy: The Brain
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Per class:
Per Student:

Pre-Viewing Activities
Teacher: "Students, I want you to raise your left hands." (students raise hands)

Teacher: "Now I'd like you to put your hands down and stand up right beside your chairs." (students stand up)

Teacher: "Have a seat, please. Raise your hand if you can tell me who the president of the United States is." (solicit Bill Clinton as a response)

Teacher: "I've just asked you to do three different activities. How were you able to do all of those things?" (by using our brains)
Focus Viewing
Teacher: "We're going to see a video segment on the brain. As we watch, look for information on how the brain sends electrical signals through the body. When you hear the answer, write it on your piece of notebook paper."

Viewing Activities
BEGIN video when Bill Nye says, "The brain is a group of special cells..." (about 2 to three minutes into the video)

PAUSE video when Bill says, "That's what happens whenever you move or think."

Teacher: "How does the brain send electrical signals through the body?" (through the central nervous system) Write central nervous system on the board.

Explain that: The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. -The brain processes information sent through the spinal cord. -The brain also sends out responses through the spinal cord.

Teacher: "On your sheet of unlined paper, draw a picture of a tree." (allow time for students to draw their pictures using the crayons or markers you provide.)

Teacher: "Now you're going to watch Bill Nye draw a picture of a tree. On the back of your picture, write down the steps that he goes through as he draws the tree."

RESUME video where Bill says, "So let's say that you ask me to paint a picture of a tree." (do not fast forward.)

PAUSE video when Bill Nye says, "It's wild!" the second time and the painting falls.

Teacher: "What steps did Bill have to go through to paint a picture of a tree?" (understand he was being asked to paint a tree, remember what a tree looks like, and his brain used the central nervous system to make his hand paint a tree)

Teacher: "What steps did you go through to draw a picture of a tree?" (repeat same steps)

Teacher: "You have four types of memory. Listen during the next video segment for the four types. Write them down on your sheet of notebook paper."

FAST FORWARD video until the car crashes.

RESUME video when Bill says, "There was something I was going to say..."

PAUSE video after Bill says, "Can you remember all of that?"

Teacher: "What are the four types of memory?" (short-term, long-term, ancestral, and eidetic) Record answers on board as students identify them. You may wish to review what each type of memory is used for: (1) short-term: remembering information for just a short length of time (2) long-term: storing pieces of information for a long time (3) ancestral: instinctual behavior (4) eidetic: visual, "photographic" memory

Teacher: "Some people seem to have better memories than others. Also, some people react faster than others. Watch the next segment to see how your brain's reaction time can be measured."

REWIND video to the beginning of "Nifty Home Entertainment" section with the girl and boy.

RESUME video.

STOP video after the girl says, "Stop. Never Mind."
Post-Viewing Activities
Teacher: "How did the two students measure their reaction times?" (by dropping a ruler between their fingers and measuring the distance the ruler traveled before they could catch it)

Teacher: "Now you will get a chance to measure your own reaction times. Each of you should have a ruler at your desk. Choose a partner, and take a few minutes to practice the technique you just saw on the video." (allow students time to practice.)

Teacher: "Each person needs to have three "real" trials at catching the ruler. Take turns dropping and catching it. Record your measurements on your notebook paper. Average your three trials to get one reaction time measurement." (again, allow time for students to do this.)

Teacher: "Now, average your reaction time with your partner's." Collect group measurements and post them on the board. Direct the class to make a graph of the data using the graph paper provided. Either do this as a class, in pairs, or individually (depending on their ability level.)

NOTES: (1) Depending on the number of students in the class, it may not be necessary to average each student's reaction time with a partner's. (2) "Reaction time" is a term used in the video by Bill Nye. However, the measurements being taken are in units of length--not time. You may wish to discuss this with your students.

Teacher: Review the function of the spinal cord and the four types of memory (short-term, long-term, ancestral, and eidetic) with your students.
Action Plan
Language Arts:
Have students do a creative writing assignment of what it would be like to have a "super" brain that was faster than anyone else's.

Social Studies:
Research the beliefs of various cultures regarding the brain. Give oral or written reports.

Have students measure their reaction times (using the ruler method) at various times during the day. Take three readings at each time, and average the trails. Graph the results.

Life Science:
Research a scientist who did work on the brain and write a report.

Master Teacher: Susan Dixon

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