We began, of course, by reviewing the previous lesson, The Ear. Students completed their summaries and illustrations for their main lesson books.
Day One Topic & Exploration
The Endocrine System is actually another office in the Department of Communication, with signals sent via chemical messages as opposed to electrical ones (which is what The Nervous System uses).
These chemical messages are called hormones, a term which most of the kids had heard before.
I used the paragraphs of explanation from the Unlocking the Endocrine System lesson plan, and we briefly discussed a few specific examples, such as insulin, epinephrine (also known as adrenalin or adrenaline), and growth hormones. I have a cousin who stopped growing when she was about four years old as a child and didn't get any taller for several years until my aunt and uncle decided to give her growth hormones. Then she grew taller. The children found that really interesting.
Then I took out a large envelope which was filled with messages written on colored 3 x 5 index cards. I created the set of cards in advance, writing messages on them and then cutting each one into two pieces, curving the cut lines so that the pieces went together like a puzzle. I explained that this is like a hormone matching up with its hormone receptor. There MUST be a match. Only then will the body be able to read and follow the message. (This is why the mis-directed letter to Mr Hatch -- below -- would end up being confusing. It's not really true that any old receptor site will work.)
I passed out several card parts to each person and they had to work together to match up their messages and then complete the task.
Here were the task cards I created:
Run around the house three times.
Do four jumping jacks.
Quack like a duck.
Water the bonsai.
Ask Ms. Renee if she would like a cup of tea.
Pet the rabbit.
Count to 10 in ASL.
Give the dog a treat.
Day Two Story & Exploration
Start by reading "The Letter" chapter from Frog and Toad are Friends, then ask the children, "What does this have to do with The Endocrine System?"
Nearly any story which involves a mailman delivering a letter would be fine. This one works well because the message is delivered slowly, a good contrast with the speed of The Nervous System. Somebody Loves You, Mr Hatch is one of my favorite books but wouldn't really work for this topic because it is about the accidental delivery of a mis-directed letter.
Review The Endocrine System. Look at the side of several milk cartons for the notice about bovine growth hormones. Bovine somatotropin or bovine somatotrophin (abbreviated bST and BST), or bovine growth hormone (BGH), is a peptide hormone produced by cows' pituitary glands. Discuss that some people worry that bovine growth hormones might negatively affect humans. Point out that, as the milk label states, "The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from artificial growth hormone treated and non-artificial growth hormone treated cows."
We also talked about the hormone seratonin and how people who have trouble sleeping, or people who travel and have to adjust to a radically different time zone, can take seratonin.
For students who want to delve into The Endocrine System in more detail, and learn the specific names of some of the glands and where they are located on the body, I suggest using the nomenclature three-part cards from ETC Montessori.
Note: there are sexual body parts and hormones included in this set of nomenclature, which may be an issue for some families depending on the age of the child. You could always adapt the set by removing some of cards (testes, ovary) and leaving others (pineal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, adrenal gland, pancreas).
Main Lesson Book
Students began to draft their summaries and illustrations for The Endocrine System.
Pass out colored index cards and markers and scissors and let the children create and cut task cards to use as their MLB illustrations. There are three options. Cards can be written, cut, matched back together, and glued in readable pairs on the page. They can be written, cut, left separate, and glued down scattered around on the page. For kids who want to include an actual activity in their MLB, they can write and cut several task cards which can then be put into an envelope and the envelope can be glued to the page.
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