Transmission Along Neurons - A Manipulative Model
Sharon Spencer and Sharon Deal
These manipulatives are intended to serve as engaging "hands-on" aids to help students visualize the scientific concept and phenomena of neural transmission. The purpose of this manipulative is to show and explain the action potential in a neuron as a result of movement of ions across a cell membrane.
Transmission of nerve impulse
After initial instruction on process information, this activity requires a fifty-minute period for working with the manipulative models. Students should quiz each other on the accuracy of their simulation.
The teacher should explain the basic sequence of events involved in the initiation and transmission by a neuron before attempting this activity. An explanation of the terminology used in the simulation has been found to be helpful. There should be a teacher-directed demonstration before students begin their model manipulations.
Black line masters for making parts of simulation
Colored card stock paper (can be used in a copy machine)
Pumps (a variety of small, tube-shaped containers such as film canisters can be
Gates (can be made from straws or pop sickle sticks and elastic cord)
2 gallon Ziploc storage bags
To assemble kits:
1. Refer to the model assembly page and follow directions for making the base and the wave of
2. Copy and laminate pages 4 and 5 for the remainder of the model.
3. Assemble the sodium and potassium pumps using small canisters, such as film canisters. Each
pump needs a label and arms. Generally 3 sodium ions are pumped out for every 2 potassium
ions pumped in. The sodium pumps, therefore, should have 3 arms taped onto the canister and
the potassium pump should have 2 arms taped to the outside of the canister. On the free ends of
the arms, attach small pieces of Velcro on which the ions will be attached. These pumps will be
located in the cell membrane portion of the neuron.
4. Assemble the sodium and potassium channels. In this manipulative, only two different channels
will be considered. The channels can be represented by gates that open and close. These are
also located in the cell membrane. These gates can be built out of pop sickle sticks, straws or
other similar materials following the pattern shown. Hinges can be constructed out of elastic
cord to allow for opening and closing.
5. For illustration of the sequence of neural impulse events for use with the manipulative model,
see the page labeled "Sequence of Neural Impulse".
About the Authors
Sharon Spencer is an anatomy and physiology and biotechnology teacher at Judson High School in Converse, Texas. She can be contacted at Judson High School, F. M. 78, Converse, Texas 78109, ph. # (210) 658-6252. E-mail: email@example.com.
Sharon Deal is biology teacher at Ridge View High School in Columbia, South Carolina. She can be contacted at Ridge View High School, 4801 Hard Scrabble Road, Columbia, SC 29223, ph. # (803) 699-2999. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.