Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Using a Passing Game to Teach Nerve Conduction

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Using a Passing Game to Teach Nerve Conduction

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As a neuroscientist, I am easily excited by the concept of the saltatory conduction of action potentials down a myelinated neuron. However, the complexity of the nervous system's anatomy and physiology can dampen the interest of some students. To pass my excitement along to my students and to clarify the effects of myelin on neuronal activity, I use a tangible analogy to teach action potential conduction down unmyelinated versus myelinated axons.

After explaining the general structure of neurons, the function of each neuronal component, and the composition and function of myelin, I choose 13 students to line up against a wall in the classroom. I select four males and nine females or four females and nine males to form a line at the front of the room. Each student lines up shoulder-to- shoulder alternating three male or female students with one male or female student (i.e. one male, three females, one male, three females, . . .). I explain that the line is representative of an unmyelinated neuron.

Using an object that can be passed quickly from hand to hand (e.g., set of keys, small ball, etc.), I begin the illustration by giving the object (representative of the action potential) to the first student in the line. I coach the students to pass the object, from person to person, to the end of the line as quickly as possible while I time the transaction. …

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