This neuron firing modeling activity is similar to my guided neuron modeling
project in that it uses the same neuron model pieces, but what makes this different is that it is totally student-driven. They figure everything out themselves! It makes it harder, but students will learn the information so deeply--it's awesome!
In my class, I do lecture a bit on action potentials and neurotransmission, but it goes right over most students’ heads…I assign this modeling task shortly thereafter, and this is really what solidifies their understanding. The lecture gives them a bit of background and information to pull from, but honestly, the model is the most important part of the equation! Students have to do some research, figure out how to apply the research to their model, and then conference with you to show how action potentials and neurotransmission work.
To pull in a "real world" connection, students are also asked to model how a drug of their choice impacts action potentials and/or neurotransmission. Make sure to check on your school internet filters—my students have a hard time searching for information about some of the drugs on their Chromebooks. If you have issues, you can leave out the drug part entirely and adjust the rubric & research/sites as needed, change it to more “friendly” drugs—caffeine, aspirin, etc., or change it to some other aspect of neurotransmission entirely, such as modeling inhibitory vs excitatory signals instead of drug impacts.
I first wondered if it was going to be too hard for my students, but they totally stepped up to the challenge and impressed me with what they learned. Action potentials and neurotransmission are now ingrained in their brains, which is exactly why I made my students learn this way—I decided to add this activity in to my anatomy class, as I have Anat and Phys set as a pre-requisite (along with chemistry) for AP Biology. Now I can spend MUCH less time on neuron firing in AP Bio, because my students coming in truly learned (and remember a year or two later!) how the process works. It’s incredible!!
Here's what you get in this bundle- check out the preview, too!
- Template pages (in PowerPoint) for the neuron model and pieces
- List of materials needed for assembly
- Notes about how to use the project based on my experiences
- Link to student pages (Google Docs)
- Suggested schedule
- Suggestions for grading and conferencing
NOTE: If you do not have a Google account, you will have to make one in order to make a copy of the Google Doc and save it in your Google Drive.