This activity is a fun way to encourage learning and healthy habits while exploring the brain.
Categories: Developing Talents, Learning and Living the Gospel (Word of Wisdom)
Duration: 1-2 sessions, depending on how much time you want to spend on the craft.
- Access to this Youtube video or a book or article about the topic (brain and learning).
- Pony beads
- One pair of scissors
- A space to run around (gym, parking lot, lawn, etc.)
- Depending on the space you choose, a way to mark off safe spaces for “axon” and “dendrite.” For instance you could use chalk if in a parking lot, painter’s tape in the gym, string on the ground, cones, etc.
- Access to the image below (print a copy if you have no computer).
- Try making a beady neuron yourself to make sure that the string you have isn’t too thick.
- Read over the rules for Synaptic Tag.
- Mark off spaces for “Axon” and “Dendrite” for the Synaptic Tag game.
1. Start by watching the short video about the Brain and Learning.
2. Ask the girls what they learned from the video. Specifically, what things can help our brain learn, and what things make it harder for our brain to function?
3. Review what neurons are. Show them the diagram of a neuron and a synapse. Explain briefly how the brain sends messages from one neuron to another (Neurotransmitters go from the axon of one neuron, to the dendrite of a different neuron, and pass on the message. Some neurotransmitters inevitably get lost or go the wrong way and chemicals called “enzymes” clean up the extra neurotransmitters that are still hanging around).
4. Explain the rules of Synaptic Tag and play a few normal rounds as described. Let the girls trade off being neurotransmitters and enzymes.
5. Next, start changing how the neurotransmitters and enzymes move to demonstrate how various healthy or unhealthy habits can affect brain function. Here are some ideas.
- This brain is really stressed out! The neurotransmitters get confused. They have to run and touch two walls of the room before you can make it to the dendrite.
- This brain got a good night’s sleep so the neurotransmitters have lots of energy! Enymes, run in slow motion.
- This brain was introduced to a new book! Two different enzymes have to tag these strong neurotransmitters to get “out.”
- The person with this brain got a good workout this morning. The neurotransmitters have extra oxygen to help them function. Enzymes, hold hands with another enzyme while chasing down your targets.
- The person with this brain ate wayyyy too much candy. Neurotransmitters, spin around in at least three circles on your way to the dendrite.
- A challenging puzzle helped strengthen this brain’s synapses. Enzymes have to hop on one foot to get around.
- This brain got a nice relaxing hike in the woods or meditation session. Enzymes take a nap while the neurotransmitters make their way across.
- The person with this brain hasn’t been eating enough fruits and vegetables and it doesn’t have enough vitamins and minerals for the brain to function! Neurotransmitters, hop like a kangaroo.
- This brain practiced math problems over and over until it mastered them! Enzymes have to stand still for the count of three before going after the neurotransmitters.
- This brain is under the influence of harmful drugs or alcohol. Neurotransmitters have to crawl to the dendrites.
- This brain is dehydrated. Neurotransmitters, walk backwards to your destination. (Side note: interesting video on how kids who drink water in the morning have better brain function at school!)
6. Settle down and show the kids how to make a Beady Neuron. If you only want to spend one session on this activity, you will likely start the neurons together, and then let them take home some beads to finish at home. If you’re doing this in two sessions, you will have time for them to make a few to take home, and also do this great Neuron Throw Down activity with them to review how neurons pass information to each other.