Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Be Impulsive!

Abby Hill


Students work as a -nerve cell relay team-, each having a specific part (order) in the race. A secret (written) message is sent, in relay fashion, until it reaches the final team member. The first team to finish, and relay the correct message, wins.


The student understands that living things are composed of major systems that function in reproduction, growth, maintenance, and regulation.

The student knows that the body processes involve specific biochemical reactions governed by biochemical principles.

The student knows that organisms respond to internal and external stimuli.

The student understands that the systems within living things respond to changes in the environment (for example, allergens and carcinogens).

The student understands the concept of multicellular organisms.

Content addressed at sixth and eighth grades.


-Grades 6-8 science textbook
-Masking or duct tape
-Markers, crayons
-Notebook paper
-Secret messages written on slips of paper (4 or 5 different messages x number of teams)
-Chart & clipboard for scorekeeping
-Stop watch or watch with second hand


1. Provide students with background knowledge in the content area.
2. Allow concept comprehension opportunities.
3. Schedule access to relay area (P.E. field, gymnasium)
4. Gather necessary supplies (see -Materials- above).
5. Pre-assign students to their relay team.


1. Review vocabulary and concepts, as appropriate, in the classroom before going outdoors for the relay. (receptor, dendrite, cell body, axon, synapse, internal and external stimuli, the proper order of the nerve impulse transmission process, etc.) Have students copy words/definitions/diagrams in order to study for a test and/or activity dealing with the vocabulary and the
nerve cell transmission process.
2. Assign each student to their message relay team (8 students per team). Assign each team member a role: receptor, dendrite-1, cell body-1, axon-1, synapse, dendrite-2, cell body-2, axon-2)

3. Direct each student to write his/her 'job title' (from above), in large letters, on a sheet of notebook paper. Check spelling.

4. Assist students in securely taping job title paper on their chests or backs.

5. Explain activity to students. Draw diagram of team order, relay procedure, goal/objective, etc. on chalkboard/overhead, as necessary. Answer any questions.

6. Take class outside to large yard/field or into gymnasium

7. Line teams up for relay, in proper order, with several yards between each member (as reasonable for available space, student physical ability, age, etc.)

8. Give one secret message slip to the Receptor (1st member on each team). He or she reads message, quickly commits message to memory, and returns slip to teacher or designee. (Suggestions: -mix up- messages so that no 2 teams are relaying the same message during the same 'heat'. Also, keep message length and content appropriate to class ability. One or two sentences is usually adequate.)

9. Teacher proceeds to finish line end of relay before giving signal to -Go-.

10. Relay begins: (Teacher commands -Go!-):
- Receptor runs to dendrite-1,
whispers secret message
- Dendrite-1 runs to cell body-1,
repeats (whispers) message
- Repeat process until Axon-2
(last member) on each team crosses
finish line
- First team across finish line
wins IF Axon-2 member can repeat
secret message in its entirety
- If 1st team cannot repeat
message correctly, allow 2nd place
team to attempt, etc.

11. Repeat relay, if time allows, using different secret messages

12. Allow for feedback and review of concepts upon returning to classroom


Students will demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of the standards by:

a. correctly identifying and spelling terms
b. placing the relay team in proper order (correlating to nerve cell impulse transmission process)
c. participating and contributing in pre and post-activity environment
d. exhibiting a mastery of objectives through formal, written assessments: spelling/vocabulary test, unit quiz from textbook (body processes - the nervous system), designing diagram of nerve impulse process as homework assignment (optional)
e. applying this knowledge to other related lessons and activities during discussion and feedback
f. teacher will observe students during group (team) work, noting cooperative effort, peer leadership and assistance, and positive attitude.


This particular activity will especially appeal to the kinesthetic learner. Activities/extensions for other learner types may include:

- Students draw and label a diagram of the nerve impulse transmission process
- Students create and write -secret- message slips (re-distribute among teams, author anonymous)
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