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6-8 > Human Body
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Human Body Duration: Two class periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. The brain is made up of different parts, each of which performs a different function.
2. An injury to any one part of the brain will impede the function performed by that part.
3. Safety precautions to prevent brain injuries are important.

For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on the human brain
Computer with Internet access
Optional: materials students will need if they choose to make models of the brain

1. Discuss with your students what they know about the brain. Make sure they understand that the brain is made up of different parts, each of which performs a different function.
2. Continue the discussion by asking what kinds of injuries can occur that would impede the brain’s functions. Students may mention car accidents, bike accidents, accidents in which a heavy object hits someone in the head or falls on someone’s head. They might also mention illnesses and disorders such as brain tumors. Briefly discuss safety measures such as seat belts, bicycle helmets, and hard hats that people can use in order to prevent head injuries.
3. Tell students they are going to find out what the brain really looks like—in fact, they are going to make maps of the human brain, identifying each part and finding out what its function is. Have your students work in groups to research and map the brain.
4. Start students off on their research by directing them to the following Web site:marymt. They will also find print materials helpful.
5. After students have completed their research, have group members work together to create either a three-dimensional model or a diagram of the human brain. Each part of the brain should be labeled with its name and function.
6. Have each student, working individually, imagine an injury to one part of the brain and predict its impact on brain function. Each student should write a paragraph describing the injury and predicting its impact on brain function. For example: What effects might a strong blow to the occipital lobe have? A tumor in the parietal lobe?
7. Students may accompany their paragraphs with safety posters promoting the use of safety devices to prevent head injuries.
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Have students write longer essays in which they describe injuries to at least three parts of the brain and predict the impact on brain function of each type of injury.
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Discussion Questions

1. Why do scientists believe it is easier for young children to relearn functions that were lost due to brain damage than it is for older people who may have suffered brain damage due to a stroke?
2. How are men's and women's brains physically different?
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You can evaluate your students on their paragraphs using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:correctly identifies function of the chosen part of the brain; correctly predicts impact of injury on brain function; paragraph well organized with no errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

  • Two points:correctly identifies function of the chosen part of the brain; correctly predicts impact of injury on brain function; paragraph somewhat lacking in organization; several errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

  • One point:correctly identifies function of the chosen part of the brain; correctly predicts impact of injury on brain function; paragraph poorly organized; many errors
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Looking Back
Have students research historical and cross-cultural ideas and attitudes about brain disorders. How have they been explained in the past? What treatments have been available for them? What happened to people who were mentally ill? What surgeries were offered? When their research is complete, have students write letters, or journal entries by people with mental illnesses or brain disorders at another time in history or from other cultures. Students should depict what life was like for these people.

Mental Illness and the Brain
As our understanding of mental illness increases, we find that there is often a relationship between a particular mental illness and brain structure or brain biochemistry. For example, people suffering from depression may lack seratonin in their brains. Have your students work in groups, each group researching a particular mental illness. Students should find out the symptoms of the illness, its relationship to brain structure or brain biochemistry, and possible avenues of treatment. Have each group make a presentation to the rest of the class. Conclude with a discussion of how the biochemical origins of mental illness might affect how we think about our emotional states. What implications might current research have in the areas of law, culture, and education?

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Suggested Readings

It's All In Your Head; A Guide to Understanding Your Brain and Boosting Your Brain Power
by Susan L. Barrett, Free Spirit, 1992.
ISBN 0-915793-45-8
LC 92-18090

The Mind
by Richard M. Restak, Bantam, 1988.
LC 88-19365

The Mind; How We Think and Learn
by Thomas H. Metos, Watts, 1990.
ISBN: 0-531-10885-6
LC 90-34960

Uncommon Genius; How Great Ideas Are Born
by Denise G. Shekejian, Viking, 1991.
ISBN 0-14-010986-7
LC 89-40330
The subject of creativity is discussed.

The Biology of the Brain; From Neurons to Networks
by Rodolfo R. Llinas, editor, Freeman, 1989.
ISBN 0-7167-2037-X
LC 88-36263

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This site provides information about surgical procedures, including a hemispherectomy which can be used to treat individuals who suffer from epileptic seizures.

Brainweek Quiz
At this site, you will find a quiz on the brain and some of the numerous disorders associated with brain dysfunction. The answers and discussion about the answers is included at the bottom of the page.

Manic-Depressive Illness: A Guide For Patients And Families
This is an excellent and comprehensive guide to the symptoms and treatment of manic-depressive illness.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    seizure
Definition:A sudden attack, spasm, or convulsion, as in epilepsy or another disorder.
Context:"Inside her skull the remaining left half of her brain has taken over most functions once performed by the right, and her crippling seizures are gone."

speaker    hemispherectomy
Definition:The surgical removal of either of the lateral halves of the cerebrum part of the brain.
Context:"This procedure, called a hemispherectomy, is helping researchers understand some of the fundamental mysteries of the brain."

speaker    neurons
Definition:Any of the impulse-conducting cells that constitute the brain, spinal column, and nerves, consisting of a nucleated cell body with one or more dendrites and a single axon. Also called nerve cell.
Context:"The brain's remarkable powers are generated by 100 billion neurons."

speaker    manic-depressive illness
Definition:A psychiatric affective disorder marked by alternating episodes of mania and depression. Also called bipolar disorder, bipolar illness.
Context:"Manic-depressive illness is an illness of extreme moods and behavior and energy levels."

speaker    lithium carbonate
Definition:A white, granular powder, LiCO3, used in the manufacture of glass and ceramics and in the treatment of depression and manic-depressive illness.
Context:"A chemical compound called lithium carbonate is the standard treatment for manic depression."

speaker    neurologist
Definition:A person who practices the medical science that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it.
Context:"As a neurologist, Dr. Ramachandran knew that Derrick's pain was coming from his brain not his missing limb."

speaker    dyslexia
Definition:A learning disorder marked by impairment of the ability to recognize and comprehend written words.
Context:"The Shaywitz's were hunting for the part of the brain responsible for the reading disorder called dyslexia."

speaker    nurture
Definition:The sum of environmental influences and conditions acting on an organism.
Context:"In other words, is it nurture or nature that explains the differences between male and female brains."

speaker    electrocardiogram
Definition:The curved traced by an instrument used in the detection and diagnosis of heart abnormalities that measures electrical potentials on the body surface and generates a record of the electrical currents associated with heart muscle activity.
Context:"This is his electrocardiogram, up here, this orange line."

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Science
Knows the general structure and functions of cells in organisms.
Knows that specialized cells perform specialized functions in multicellular organisms; each type of cell, tissue and organ has a distinct structure and set of functions that serve the organism as a whole.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Science
Knows the general structure and functions of cells in organisms.
Knows that disease represents a breakdown in structures or functions of an organism; some diseases are the result of intrinsic failures of the system, whereas others are the result of infection by other organisms.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Health
Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health.
Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Behavioral Studies
Understands that interactions among learning, inheritance, and physical development affect human behavior.
Understands that all behavior is affected by both inheritance and experience.

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Joyce Nelson Bailey, master science teacher, nature lover, and freelance curriculum writer.
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