Sept. 22 – BRAINS!

This week Mr. Macha’s class moved on to brains, which just happens to be one of my favorite things to teach. The lesson for the day focused on the idea that different parts of the brain are responsible for different activities and parts of the body. The students worked on making a color coded chart, but seemed to get hung up on the actual coloring part. They also got hung up on the idea that the cerebrum is the name of the grey matter of the brain AND it has different parts that have different names (lobes). We watched a video during the second half of the day. The video covered the central and peripheral nervous system in detail, including the differences in the types of neural messages sent as the result of voluntary actions and reflexes. Most of the students did a good job paying attention, although I suspect they thought the clothes were kind of funny as opposed to being riveted by the material. (They also found the scene with the hot potato exceptionally funny.)

It was nice to have the human anatomy background today. When I told them the video underestimated the size of a human spinal cord and that it’s roughly the size of your thumb, one of the students asked, “How do you know?” It was pretty neat to be able to say, “Because I’ve seen some in real life!” I was also able to share a dissection atlas with them, so they were able to see pictures that were photographs rather than line drawings. Some of the students thought they were kind of gross, but others were intrigued, much like the reaction of most undergraduates!  I do have to say that one of the interesting things was how much trouble they had with the color-coding activity. Mr. Macha and I discussed this at the end of the day, but couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly why it was so difficult. He’d hoped that it would help visually reinforce the things they had talked about earlier in the week and that it would be something that would work for all of the students, including the special ed kids. Instead, it sucked up a bunch of time and didn’t seem to help them grasp the big picture for the day. Mr. Macha has already said that he plans on revamping it for next year and I’ll be curious to hear how he decides to tweak it.

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About Sarah Schmidt

I am a PhD candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas. I study prairie rivers and I am especially interested in algal communities and using lipids to explore food webs.
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