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6-8 > Human Body
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Human Body Duration: One class period
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Students will understand the following:
1. People can track body changes during puberty by close observation and accurate record keeping.

For this lesson, you will need:
Blank notebooks
Camera for snapshots
Access to scales and tape measures for students to weigh themselves and track other measurements

1. Although this activity will probably take no more than one class period to set up, explain to students that the activity itself will proceed over the course of a semester or the whole academic year. To avoid misunderstandings at home, consider informing parents or guardians about this activity before you assign it to students.
The activity calls for keeping a growth diary for self-observation and reflection. The end products will include (a) a print or electronic notebook that students will enjoy reviewing and perhaps sharing with others later in life and (b) a personal essay about the process of maintaining the notebook for the semester or year. (The notebook, you might point out, has a bonus, too: It gives students practice in keeping accurate records during firsthand research, which is a kind of research that students will need to conduct for high school and college projects.)
2. The single most important fact to share with students about their growth diaries is that they will remain confidential. Neither you, the teacher, nor classmates should at any time have access to anyone else’s growth diary. Students’ growth diaries need never come to school.
3. At the beginning of the semester or year, present each student with a head photo of himself or herself. Tell each student to paste his or her photo in the front of a notebook he or she will use for observation and reflection notes. If possible, also present students with a 30-second audiotape or digitized recording of their speaking voices. The notebook can take a variety of physical forms, or it may even be electronic.
4. At this time, too, show students how to set up their notebook pages in columns and rows to keep track of the data they will collect on a regular basis during the rest of the semester or year: date, height, weight, chest measurement, hip measurement, waist measurement, timbre of voice, and skin condition. Advise students to designate one section of their notebook as a journal, in which they will go beyond recording data tocommenton their physical changes (or lack of changes) and accompanying emotional changes. Another part of the notebook can function as a scrapbook or daybook, in which students place clippings that capture their emotions while they are keeping growth diaries; the clippings might be lines from poems or songs that they particularly identify with.
5. As necessary, tell students in more detail what you mean by asking them to “comment on their physical changes . . . and accompanying emotional changes”: Explain that it is not unusual for young adolescents to feel pride or embarrassment, excitement or fear, as they grow. Those emotions are what you want students to keep track of so that they will be able to remember them when they are older.
6. As the semester or year progresses, remind students that you are expecting them to keep up their growth diaries. Toward the end of the semester or period, present students with a second picture and sound track of themselves to include in their growth diaries.
7. Also toward the end of the semester or year, tell students more about the personal essay that you expect from each of them about the process of keeping the growth diary for the semester or year. Go over what the personal essay should contain:
  • A clear thesis statement that is not merely a fact but that states a position or argument—in this case about the process of keeping the growth diary
  • Coherent and unified paragraphs with topic sentences
  • Support for the thesis statement and topic sentences: examples, statistics, sound opinions, and other details
  • A strong ending—perhaps a suggestion for future classes that keep growth journals
  • A title
Explain that the challenge in writing these personal essays is for students to make clear to you what they thought of keeping the growth journal—plusses and minuses of the process—without divulging intimate feelings that they do not want to share with you.
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Not applicable
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Discussion Questions

1. Puberty is often referred to as a “roller coaster ride.” Debate whether this metaphor accurately represents the difficulties, challenges, and rewards of the human development toward adulthood.
2. Both boys and girls go through a wide variety of physical and emotional changes during their teens. Discuss how boys’ and girls’ experiences of adolescence are similar and different.
3. Explain how the many intellectual and physical changes that boys and girls go through in becoming men and women serve to make them better able to perpetuate the species.
4. Teenagers are well known for feeling anger toward authority figures—their parents, their teachers and principals, celebrities, religious figures, and so on. Discuss the factors that, in your experience, give rise to these feelings. Be sure to consider both societal and biological influences.
5. There is more to being an adult than having an adult body. What other qualities do human beings acquire in their development toward maturity?
6. Discuss the challenges that teenagers must deal with in having their bodies develop more quickly than their emotions.
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You may evaluate each student’s personal essay using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:strong thesis statement and topic sentences; coherent and unified paragraphs; substantial supporting details; error-free grammar, usage, and mechanics

  • Two points:adequate thesis statement and topic sentences; somewhat coherent and unified paragraphs; some supporting details; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

  • One point:inadequate or missing thesis statement and topic sentences; paragraphs lacking coherence and unity; insufficient support details; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
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Charting Hormones
In this activity, students will identify the sources and effects of the hormones the human body releases in abundance during puberty. Using diagrams that show organs, bones, and muscles of both male and female bodies, have students locate and identify critical hormone centers such as the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal gland, thyroid gland, testes, and ovaries. Next, have them illustrate where the hormones secreted by those centers flow to through the bloodstream. Students should note on their diagrams what changes each hormone is responsible for during puberty. The hormones to chart include the following:
  • Estrogen
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Prolactin
  • Oxytocin
  • Gonadotropin
  • Androgen

Adult Interviews
As difficult as it is for teens to feel comfortable learning about the changes in their own bodies and accompanying emotions, it is often even more difficult for them to learn about those of the opposite sex. This activity—which you might want to precede with a letter home to prepare parents for their involvement—is designed to help students begin to understand the changes in the opposite sex by discussing them with someone with whom they feel safe: a parent, another relative, a guardian, or a trusted adult friend of the family. Begin by dividing the class into small, same-sex groups and asking each group to brainstorm a list of questions that they would like to ask someone of the opposite sex who has already passed through puberty and entered adulthood. Suggest that students ask not only about physical changes but also emotional changes. Each student should then use some of the questions his or her group has brainstormed as the basis for an interview with the selected adult.

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Suggested Readings

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives
Ruth Bell. Random House, 1998.
A monumental, encyclopedic discussion of sexual and emotional change during the teen years, this clearly written book is illustrated with relevant cartoons, photographs, diagrams, and line drawings. Dozens of teenagers themselves were interviewed and are quoted in this excellent, extremely useful resource for young adults and educators alike.

The New Teenage Body Book
Kathy McCoy, Charles Wibblesman, and Bob Stover. Perigee, 1992.
Adolescence is one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing, developmentally difficult, and hormonally intoxicating times of life. This guide provides straightforward answers to the toughest questions about adolescence.

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The Truth About Tobacco
A dynamic video featuring Patrick Reynolds, son of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds. An anti-smoking advocated, Reynolds uses video clips, photos and TV spots to demonstrate the impact smoking has on our health and society.

The Teen Center
For college students, high school students, and teenagers offers areas in student resources, headlines, entertainment, e-zines, advice and an area dedicated to students communicating with each other.

Adolescent Health Online
Provided by the American Medical Association, this web site offers information on adolescent health on a wide range of topics, from alcoholism to violence.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Provides health information for women and adolescent girls.

Just for You: Teens, Hot Topics
Part of the healthfinder web of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this page offers links to numerous hot topics for teens. From motor vehicle safety to adolescent health to issues of eating, drinking and smoking, there is information on mo

American Medical Association: Health Insight: Adolescent Health
Features “Teen Talk,” a compilation of more than 30 articles written to promote the health and well-being of young people. It addresses such topics as puberty, sexuality, depression, substance abuse, nutrition and much more.

YouthInfo is a website developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide the latest information about America’s adolescents.

AMA: Adolescent Health Links
This “must-see” site provides links to sites on Adolescents and Alcohol and Other Substance Use; Health Education; On-Line Resources; HIV/AIDS; Mental Health; National Hotlines & Information Centers; Nutrition & Physical Fitness; Parenting Resources and more.

ADOL: Adolescence Directory On-Line
Adolescence Directory On-Line (ADOL) is an electronic guide provided by the Center for Adolescent Studies at Indiana University for educators, counselors, parents, researchers, health practitioners,and teens. It features a "Teens Only" forum.

George Mason University’s Adolescent Development Links
This site provides many excellent links to sites on general adolescent issues, puberty and sex education, identity development, and problems of adolescence.

Talking With Kids About Tough Issues
A joint venture of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Children Now, this site offers parents ways of establishing open communication about sex, violence, alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS and drugs. There is also a Spanish version available.

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

speaker    cartilage
Definition:A usually translucent, somewhat elastic tissue that is replaced by bone during ossification in the higher vertebrates.
Context:Children’s joints are different from those of adults in that they have much more cartilage where adults have bones.

speaker    estrogen
Definition:A substance tending to promote estrus and stimulate the development of female secondary sex characteristics.
Context:As young girls become women, they secrete increased amounts of estrogen in their ovaries.

speaker    hormone
Definition:A product of living cells that circulates in body fluids and produces a specific effect on the activity of cells remote from its point of origin.
Context:The release of hormones through our bodies is critical in facilitating the changes that constitute puberty.

speaker    maturity
Definition:Full development.
Context:Teenagers’ bodies develop more quickly than their emotional maturity.

speaker    metamorphosis
Definition:Change of physical form, structure, or substance.
Context:Puberty can be likened to the metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

speaker    testosterone
Definition:A hormone produced especially by the testes that is responsible for inducing and maintaining male secondary sex characteristics.
Context:The release of testosterone in the testes is responsible for many changes in boys as they become men.

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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, 9-12
Subject area:health
Understands the relationship of family health to individual health.
Benchmark 6-8:
Understands the development of adolescent independence.

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands methods to facilitate the transition from the role of a child to the role of an independent adult in the family.

Grade level:6-8, 9-12
Subject area:health
Understands the fundamental concepts of growth and development.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows the similarities and differences between male and female sexuality.

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands a variety of physical, mental, emotional, and social changes that occur throughout life (e.g., young adulthood, pregnancy, middle age, old age) and how these changes differ among individuals.

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands how physical, mental, social, and cultural factors influence attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life science
Understands the basic concepts of the evolution of species.
Knows that heritable characteristics, which can be biochemical and anatomical, largely determine what capabilities an organism will have, how it will behave, and how likely it is to survive and reproduce.

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Christine LaPlaca Burrows, former high school social studies teacher and current freelance educator.
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