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Brain Power: Grades 4-5


  1. Begin the activity by asking the students if they have ever learned about neurotransmission. The students who worked on other modules in the Brain Power! program may remember something about this process.
  2. Show the students the overhead transparency of neurotransmission. Explain the steps in the process.
  3. Watch the Module 3 DVD. Stop the DVD at the break.
  4. Tell students that to better understand this complex process, they are going to design a board game explaining how neurotransmission works and how information is communicated between the brain and other parts of the body.
  5. Pass out a board game set to each group. Tell students that the game works like this: The spaces on the board will tell students what to do when they are playing the game. The students must fill in these spaces before playing the game. Ideas are listed below. Once the students have filled in the spaces, have them play. Each student should spin, move a certain number of spaces, and follow the instructions on the space. If they answer the question correctly, they spin again. The player who returns to the starting place first wins the game.

    Ideas for the Board
    • Neurotransmitters were just released into the synapse. Move two spaces.
    • A message didn’t go through. Go back three spaces.
    • You just had a brilliant idea! Move ahead four spaces.
    • Brain overload! Go back three spaces.
    • Pick a card and follow the instructions.

    Ideas for the Cards

    • Name the parts of a neuron.
    • Explain how your brain “knows” that your arm hurts.
    • What is the myelin sheath? Why is it important?
    • What are neurotransmitters?
    • What are receptors?
    • What are transporter molecules?
    • What parts of a neuron communicate with each other?
    • Where does communication take place?
  6. Resume the DVD. When the DVD is finished, give students class time to play the game. It may be a good idea to leave the overhead transparency on while students are playing. That way, they can refer to it if they have questions while playing the game.
  7. After the students are finished playing the game, have them clean up and come back together as a class. Conclude the activity by asking them what they learned about neurons and how they communicate (neurotransmission).

Discussion Questions

  1. Show the DVD to the students. Discuss what new neurotransmission information they learned from the DVD.
  2. Challenge the students to develop their own way to explain neurotransmission. It could be by developing another board game, a simulation, or a play.
  3. Ask the students if they think it would be better if the Junior Scientists collaborated with the Spectacular Scientists Club kids instead of competing with them. Tell them that they will be asked later in the program about the value of competition versus collaboration.

This page was last updated September 2012

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NIDA (2012). Brain Power: Grades 4-5. Retrieved , from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/brain-power/brain-power-grades-4-5

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NIDA Notes: The Latest in Drug Abuse Research

Brain Power Video Modules: Grades 4-5