of The Mind", Alan Alda and Gerry
Edelman study the behavior of Darwin, a robot who
has learned that blocks with stripes taste good, and
blocks with blobs taste bad. Darwin's brain is modeled
on a mammal's brain, with a visual cortex to receive
the camera image, and a second specialized area to
interpret what it sees. In Darwin's computer, simulated
neurons form a network with a quarter of a million
connections. In our own bodies, we have many millions
of neurons, far more than Darwin, all with the potential
to transmit signals through our nervous system so
that we may sense, respond, and learn.
Imagine for a moment that you turned on the television, and
found that commercials had changed. Instead of promoting cars,
skin care products, and financial services, they advertised
human tissues, organ systems and metabolic processes.
breathe with my LUNGS!"
fall down without a SKELETON!"
Jane, and she'll tell you, BLOOD flows through HER arteries!"
this activity you will work in groups to build nerve cell
models and "advertise" the nervous system in nerve
By articulating the structure and function of nerve cells,
they will learn about this unique organ system, and teach
one another specific elements of human physiology.
This activity page will offer:
greater understanding of the nervous system
making presentations with visual aids
These are suggestions only; you can add to the list
of permitted materials by brainstorming as a group. However,
if money is spent, in no case should a group spend more
than $10 total. All finished projects should be more than
types of pasta
in groups of three or four.
together over three 45-minute class periods for preparation
and presentation, over one week.
the first class, research the structure and function of
the nervous system. What are the parts of a nerve cell?
How are nervous signals transmitted? Under what conditions
do they "fire"? How are nerve cells in the body
organized in systems? At the conclusion of this class,
your teacher will assign each group with a specific aspect
of the nervous system, which you will study in the interim
and present next class.
the second class, prepare a model or representation of
neural transmission, and plan and practice your infomercial.
Give special attention to what information you want to
your model to the class. You have 2-3 minutes to give
you infomercial, and clarity and creativity
are important. Presentations should be entertaining, engaging,
and informative. The use of poetry, music, dance, and
other forms of tasteful expression are encouraged.
the third class, each group takes turns presenting its
a judging system to rate the effectiveness of the infomercials.
students complete a self-evaluation of their props and
skit, based upon the reaction they received from their
the visual portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, and
how the eye accepts light and triggers visual images in
the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.
a consciousness experiment in which students test each
other's ability to recall details about the interior of
This activity was contributed by Marc Rosner, AV Coordinator
and Tech. Support Specialist at Convent of the Sacred Heart
in New York and Educational Consultant to Scientific American