Elements of didactic innovation in neuroscience for high school (1)


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The mission of this didactic Clil project was to develop innovative strategic activities for learning biological neuroscience with two classes 16 years old students in scientific High School. Not to activate summa of knowledge, but linked concepts of different topics scientific STEM disciplines (physic, biochemistry, electrophysiology, cellular biology) for protagonist students in learning neuronal science by doing. The choose of get involved in project neuroscientist on neuronal experiment was very useful for students to understand relationship between biology and physic. In this way biology teacher works as a researcher didactic teacher.

Key words: neuron, scientific interdisciplinary education; interactive action potential; bioenergy; history electrophysiology techniques; communication neuroscience; cooperative learning;

Once sentence summary: two high school classes was engaged in Clil curricular innovative didactic plan about bases of neuroscience with ICT interactive activities.


Project activities have began by these two didactic questions for teachers
What are strategies for a scientific CLIL itinerary of neuroscience about neuron cell for students 16 years age?
Which elements shall be considered important in a interdisciplinariety CLIL educational process about bases of neuroscience with experimental analysis for high school students?

Project activities have began by these two these questions for students
A first simple question for student: what is a neuron in human nervous system? What are the functions of these cells? Witch is the differences between excitable and not excitable cells, neuronal or epithelial cell?

Fundamental concepts about basic of neuroscience
Neurones are specialised cells, the basic unit of the nervous system.

Neuron has a particular structure. It is formed by a cell body, from which a long branch, called axon. It transport the signal from the cell body to the periphery where the exon ending with synapse. The other branches are called dendritic tree, the sites where neurons receives signals from other cells. A neurone can receive million signals; however, it can produce only an answer. We can consider synapses as the key of communication among neurons. A single neuron can respond to a stimulus because it is full of potential energy. Cells are able to accumulate electrical or chemical energy. But if you have to make fast and immediate answers to an input you cannot use chemical energy, but only electrical. So energy topic has a priority role for a study about neuron cell.

The main function of a neuron is the communication. It is also used to feel, to transform all the message coming from the inside to elaborate these messages and to promote the action. Besides, neurons can converter electrical energy or chemical energy into mechanic energy. Noonday’s scientists are researching how neuron can interacted which each others to generate any kinds of signals and how can organize and storage informations. Indeed we know something about this complex mechanism but many things are still dark.


If we want that students to respond with creativity and inventiveness is important to create conditions in
which innovation is not only possible but encouraged by biology teacher in Clil neuroscience activity.
Innovation activities with foreign languages increase the levels of study motivation, encourage collaboration in both teaching and planning processes. With these objectives the project was developed in these different activities:

1) Bioenglish drawed glossary for neuroscience

In the first phase was important to encourage actively participation of all students divided in different groups of 3 students to learn bioenglish scientific key words about structure and physiology of neuron. Each group drawed with computer graphic neuronal cell with different parts: axon, cellular bodies, nucleus, dendrite, myelin sheath, and on the membrane the structure of different proteins channels: Na+, K+; Cl- and sodium potassium pump. They produced work and shared description of morphology and functions of different structures at all component of others groups.

2) Reading neuroscience activities

Neuroscience active lesson in which students became active bioenglish texts lecturer of www.brainfacts.org Explore your brain and Mind of Society of Washington . There are different sections (example: About neuroscience, Brain Basic, Thinking and Behaving) with present brief articles for flexibility lecture course beginning by answer: What is neuroscience? Interesting in particularly for students the articles: The neuron in Neuroanatomy section . They read both and produced elaborated work in little groups with different English competences. For each scientific article: bioenglish key words and bioenglish explanation of scientific key concepts, four answers about the important concepts to do different students of others group. In first moment write and in second moment with oral exposition in cooperative learning.

3) Interpretation and representations interactive action potential simulation

From interactive web activity about propagation of action potential with the possibility to determinate change of ionic concentration after stimulus on the neuronal membrane to write activity a brief bioenglish text of 300 words to describe different phases of propagation of action potential. Students in little groups work familiarizing with important concepts and focusing attention about the causes of changes electric membrane potential. In the end of this phase both the classes consulting on the website (Neuronal electrophysiology of excitable cells) the animation activity that provides visual representation of how neuron create a resting membrane potential

4) Tell history experimental neuroelectrophysiology

Teacher with a collaboration with neuroscientist present a lesson of 2 hours through storytelling experimental neurophysiology technique and introducing to research informations about scientists that have discovered or activated these approaches in different topics of biology. In these way students reflect, analyze not only about experimental neurophysiology technique but also about important phases of neuroscience evolution. In attach text about these references (Element about history of electrophysiology techniques). Both the classes watched YouTube video of description of the Patch Clamp method in different variations and all the students must formulate three answers about these experimental techniques to other students. They also realized in graphic way the “time line of evolution of patch clamp technique” with the name of different scientists.

Article written by: Marina Minoli, Biology High School Teacher, University Science Didactic Expert

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