This week we’re going to learn all about human bodies! What makes up the human body? How does it work? Let’s find out!

DNA provides the instructions for living things to grow and survive. In this lesson, students will build a model of DNA out of candy, and learn what DNA does.

Guiding questions

    • What does DNA do?
      • Answer: DNA gives cells instructions to create proteins that then build up and maintain the bodies of living things. Everyone’s DNA is unique, and that’s how it’s possible for us all to be different.
    • Which bases go together in pairs?
      • Answer: Adenine and Thymine go together, and Guanine and Cytosine go together.
    • Why is the order of bases on a strand of DNA important?
      • Answer: It’s important because if the bases are in the wrong order, the wrong instructions will be given, the wrong proteins will be made, and something will go wrong with the living thing!

Materials

    • Mini colored marshmallows 
      • Open and allow to dry out overnight
    • THIS PRINTABLE
    • Toothpicks
    • Licorice
    • Paper towels or paper plates
    • Paper
    • Pencils

Pre Lesson:

  • Make an example DNA
  • Use licorice for the sides of the DNA and decide now what color marshmallow will be what chemical (A, T, G, C)
  • A&T will always be paired (regardless of what side they’re on) and C&G will always be paired 

Running the activity with your students

    • Give them time to think about what DNA is and have a few students explain in their own words. If students have drawn it, have them show their drawings
    • Show the video
    • Discuss a couple of things they got out of the video after it finishes
      • Some things to talk about:
        • Atoms: The smallest building blocks of, well, everything! Even air is made of atoms! They are extremely small, and can only be seen with a special microscope.
        • Molecules: Groups of atoms
        • Cells: the smallest units of living things. Cells are usually so small, you can only see them with a microscope. Some living things are made up of just 1 cell. But most living things you can see around you are made up of a great many cells.
        • Review the video: DNA tells cells which proteins to make, so the proteins can build and maintain living things. It’s important for DNA’s bases to be in the right order, so the right proteins will be made.
    • Do the project with your students (described on project page!)

What is DNA? Are you able to draw DNA?

  • Project
    • Hand out paper and have students write any combination of A, T, G,and C on the top of their papers (6 letters) 
    •  Now they should draw DNA (with 6 rungs) and label the left hand bases according to what they wrote (see below)
    • Now they should fill in the remaining bases with the correct pair

  • Give each student two pieces of licorice, 6 toothpicks, and 2 handfuls of marshmallows (they may need to trade colors, they all need 6 of each color). Have them work on a paper towel or paper plate to prevent the table from getting sticky.
  • Students should build their own DNA ladder!
    • Put matching DNA bases (marshmallows) on a toothpick and stick each end into a backbone (licorice)
    • Students should build what they drew
    • DNA has a signature twist; students can do this once the whole thing is constructed and checked by the teacher

In this lesson, students will build a model of the nervous system and learn how it sends messages through our senses to the brain, and our brain sends messages back through the nerves to control our bodies.

Guiding questions

    • How does your brain sense things?
      • Answer: Sense organs like eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and skin pass messages to your brain along your nerves and up your spinal cord.
    • How does your brain tell your organs what to do?
      • It passes messages back along the nervous system until the message gets to the proper organ.

Materials

Note about the video:

  • Stop it at 4:55, because it goes slightly off topic at that point.
    • Review the video together. The nervous system sends messages to and from your brain, through the spinal cord, really quickly! Messages come in through your senses. What are the senses? (write or draw each one on the board) When you see, hear, feel, smell, touch, or taste something, your nerves tell your brain what you’ve sensed. Then your brain sends messages down your nerves to tell your body what to do in response. When you get a feeling that you’re hungry, thirsty, or have to go to the bathroom, that feeling travels along the nervous system too.

If you finish early:

  • If you finish early, then do a relay activity like in the video.
    • Split the students into 2 equal teams.
    • Assign 1 student in each team to be the brain, and 1 to be the hand. Everyone else will be an “ion channel” or nerve, and stand between the brain and hand in a line.
    • Decide as a group what the messages passed along the nerves will be. For instance, it can be the same as in the video: a message of thirst that tells the hand to pick up tea, and a message from the hand that the tea is too hot.
    • Hand a message on a piece of paper to each “brain” at the same time, and have the teams compete to see which one can pass the message along the ion channels to the hand, then back to the brain, the fastest.

What is the nervous system? Can you name two things it does?

 Nervous Nellie

“We’re going to build a model of the nervous system and play a game with it!”

    • Have the shortest child lie down on the paper and trace around them to create a body outline.
    • Ask another student to tape the brain on the head.
    • Let the students work together to tape a “nervous system” made of yarn onto the outline. Include one long line from the brain to the bottom of the back as the spinal cord, and lines as “nerves” from the spinal cord to the limbs, etc. The lines should branch out. Use this image as a guide (perhaps project it), but of course it doesn’t have to look 100% accurate:

    • Have each student tape a different organ on the body outline.
    • Then play the Nervous Nellie game!
      • Have the students get in line. Have the first student pick one of the message cards. They should place it on the proper sense organ that will sense the message on the card (e.g., a flower on the nose to represent smelling the flower), then carry the card along the nerves back to the brain to represent the message being sent to the brain.
      • Have the next student in line carry the same card from the brain to the organ that will react (e.g., the flower to the hand to pick the flower, or even to the eyes to see it; multiple answers are possible), along the nerves.
      • Let each student get a turn this way until the cards run out.

This lesson will build on our previous exploration of the nervous system; this time students will make a model of the spine out of candy, and learn how each part of the spine works, including the spinal cord, which is essential to the nervous system.

Guiding questions

    • What do the hard lifesavers represent?
      • The vertebrae
    • What do the gummy lifesavers represent?
      • The intervertebral discs/ cartilage
    • What do the licorice laces represent?
      • The spinal cord (inside the candy) and the nerves (sticking out from the spine)

Materials:

    • Lifesavers Hard Candy
    • Lifesavers Gummy Candy
    • Licorice laces
    • Paper towels or paper plates to work on so the table won’t get sticky

Pre-Lesson

    • Make an example spine.
      • Weave 2 licorice laces through the first hard lifesaver. Tie the laces around the lifesaver, or tie a knot, to keep the candy in place. Then take turns layering the hard and gummy lifesavers on the “spinal cord” of your candy spine. Six hard lifesavers and 5 gummy lifesavers should be enough (though real spines have 24 movable bones and 9 fused bones).
      • Break some of the licorice laces into smaller pieces and tie that between each of the hard and gummy lifesavers.

Guidance for Opening Question

 What is the spine? Let some students answer, then show your candy spine. “This is a model of the spine. It has hard parts to represent bones and soft parts to represent cartilage. It also has these pieces sticking out that represent nerves. Let’s find out more in a video!”

Review for after the video (to be done with your students!)

    • Review:
      • What are vertebrae?
        • The bones of the spine that let us hold up our head, bend our backs, etc. They also hold the spinal cord.
      • What are intervertebral discs?
        • The cartilage/softer tissue between the vertebrae that let our spines bend without vertebrae rubbing against each other, which would hurt!
      • What is the spinal cord/ nerves?
        • This is a review from Nervous Nellie! The spinal cord and nerves carry messages to and from the brain.

What is the spine?

  • Project
    • Have each student use hand sanitizer (so their hands can remain clean while they work, and they can eat the spine in the end!)
    • Pass out the materials: paper towel/plate to work on, 6 hard lifesavers, 5 gummy lifesavers, and 4 licorice whips per child
    • Have the students weave 2 licorice laces through the first hard lifesaver. Tie the laces around the lifesaver, or tie a knot, to keep the candy in place. Then take turns layering the hard and gummy lifesavers on the “spinal cord” of their candy spine.
    • Break some of the licorice laces into smaller pieces and tie that between each of the hard and gummy lifesavers.
    • At the end… let the students eat their candy spines!