Biopsychology with Squirt Guns

Overview: Created as a Title III Student Success initiative by Joan Alegi-Feeney (jAlegiFeeney@massbay.edu), Ruma Mishra (rMishra@massbay.edu),  Nancy Levine (nLevine@massbay.edu), Christine Turnheim (cTurnheim@massbay.edu), Fran Eth (feth@massbay.edu), this activity is a fun way to show how chemical and electrical impulses travel through the body.

Goals: Students should learn how to name the basic unit of the nervous system and describe how it functions. They should also be able to differentiate between the central and peripheral nervous system by the end of the activity.

Background: Students should have prior knowledge of the anatomy of the nervous system- Neurons-parts and types/transmission of impulses – both electrical and chemical.

Materials/Resources: Laminated 8X10 prints of a foot, neurons (6), spinal cord and brain, squirt gun.

Procedure:

  1. Place the cards on the front board lip in no particular order. Be sure that the neuron cards are not all facing the appropriate way and the brain and spinal cord cards should not be placed next to one another. 
  2. Tell the students to imagine that they have just stepped on a nail and you want them to outline the route the impulse will take to the spinal cord and brain. 
  3. Ask someone in the class to come up and put the pictures in the appropriate order. At times they will need help from the class. 
  4. Highlight the neuron and ask the students to discuss in small groups how the electrical message crosses the neuron from the dendrite to axon. Resting Potential, Depolarization, Repolarization.
  5. Ask the students to name the different pathways- sensory and motor.
  6. Use the squirt gun to activate the adjacent neuron. It is a silly exercise but they will NOT forget the squirt guns and remember that a chemical messenger is needed to communicate between neurons. 
  7. Reiterate that reflexes are controlled by the spinal cord but the sensation of pain comes from the brain, parietal lobe.

Assessment: These concepts will be addressed on a quiz made up of multiple choice and essay questions.