I’m planning these lessons for a group of homeschoolers that I’ve worked with for years. They are sweet and responsible kids so I have the luxury of not worrying about the classes being derailed by inappropriate behaviors due to the mention of sex. I do, however, have to be careful about the sensibilities of their parents, who are a wildly diverse group. Some of the parents belong to conservative religious traditions while others were once raging hippies and now reminisce fondly about their misspent youths. (This dichotomy is pretty common in the homeschool world.) Fortunately, all of the parents want their kids to get factually correct information about biology, so I’m on firm ground with material about how human reproduction occurs from an internal, biological viewpoint. I feel an ethical imperative to touch on contraception; in this class we’ll be doing so through the lens of discovering how it work in a physical sense.
This series of lessons is unusual for me in that there are no experiments. I view that as unfortunate, but unavoidable. Some topics are difficult (impossible?) to explore through direct experimentation. Instead, I’ll be using physical models, mental/mathematical models, a quiz game, research, writing, and shared reading to keep students fully engaged and actively thinking.
Reproductive System Lesson Plans, Day 1:
Structure and Function
• Do Now: Make a list of as many organs involved in the human reproductive system as you can.
• Check homework: Randomly call on students to answer questions assigned for homework (end of chapter questions for “Endocrine and Reproductive Systems” chapter of Biology by Miller and Levine).
• Make a class chart listing internal and external human reproductive organs using the classes current knowledge
• Randomly assign lab partners.
Reproductive Organs Model, Part I
• Give half of the lab groups the “Male Reproductive System” and half of the groups the “Female Reproductive System” overview pages from The Anatomy Coloring Book. Give students time to color their pages and read through the anatomical descriptions included.
• Give out blank human body silhouettes and multiple colors of modeling clay. Tell students that they will be creating clay models of the internal reproductive anatomy of either a male or female human. They need to label as many organs as possible and prepare to do a short presentation explaining the structure and function of the organs to their classmates. Remind students to include relevant information about meiosis and chromosome number of different cell types in their presentations. Have multiple textbooks and internet-enabled devices available for research.
• After groups have completed their models and planned their presentations, have groups present. Ask questions as needed to draw out information on structure and function of organs. In particular, highlight role of hormones in communicating information between different body parts.
• Have students to take cell phone photos of the models to use as future study aids. Arrange for photos to be emailed to any students without cameras.
Reproductive System Game
• Play the Reproductive System Game with the class (from FLASH lesson plans).
• Allow time for post-game questions/class discussion.
Biology of Contraception Brochure
• The class will work together to create a brochure outlining the biology of various methods of contraception. The mechanism and effectiveness for each method is to be the focus. Each group will be assigned 1 or more methods (depending on the size of the class) so that abstinence, condoms, diaphragms, iuds, morning-after pills, “traditional” pills, and sterilization (male and female) are covered. If the class is large enough, additional methods could be added to the list. Each group will create text explaining how the method is actually used, what aspect of conception it interrupts, any additional benefits it might offer, and any medical risks that might be associated with it. Illustrations are optional. Once each group prepares its text, the work will be peer-reviewed before being submitted. It will then be teacher-vetted for accuracy and (if factually correct) will be included in a class brochure that will be distributed to all students. Brochure will be assembled and printed by teacher due to time constraints.
• Biology by Miller and Levine, questions #11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 26, and 27 p.1025 (chapter 39 “Endocrine and Reproductive Systems”)
Reproductive System Lesson Plans, Day 2:
• Do Now: Write down three or more questions you have about the biology of pregnancy.
• Check homework: Randomly call on students to answer assigned questions.
• Post questions from the Do Now at the front of the room – at the end of the class, figure out which ones have been answered and then either answer the remaining ones or suggest resources where students could find the answer for themselves.
• Randomly divide into groups.
• Students will create a class pregnancy timeline with information including embryonic/fetal size, organ development, and maternal symptoms. Each lab group will be assigned several weeks of the pregnancy (the number of weeks will be determined by the class size) to complete. Once timeline is completed, students will be encouraged to photograph it for their records. Students without cell phone cameras will have photos emailed to them.
• Explain project to class. Allow enough time for research and writing.
• Once the project is completed, give students time to look over the entire timeline. Conduct a class discussion about what students learned. Refer back to questions from the Do Now as appropriate.
Reproductive Model, Part II
• Give each lab group a week of pregnancy, spaced out as evenly as possible.
• Give blank silhouettes of women at the appropriate stage of pregnancy to each group. Students will create a clay model of the female reproductive system at the assigned week of pregnancy. The model should be labeled and students should prepare a short presentation to explain their model to the class.
• After groups have completed their models and planned their presentations, have groups present. Ask questions as needed to draw out information.
• Encourage students to take cell phone photos of the models to use as future study aids. Arrange for photos to be emailed to any students without cell phones.
• From a biological point of view, how does human reproduction occur? Write a 1-2 page essay explaining the most important points of this process to an 8th grader.
Photocopies from The Anatomy Coloring Book, colored pencils, various human body silhouettes, colored modeling clay, reproductive game playing cards (from FLASH lesson plans), multiple textbooks and internet connected devices for research, long paper for timeline
Reproductive System Lesson Plans, Day 3
Some Evolutionary Perspective
• Do Now: Write down the definitions for asexual and sexual reproduction. If you aren’t sure, write your best guess of the definitions.
• Homework: Collect homework for grading.
• Discus: What are asexual and sexual reproduction? What are some possible advantages and disadvantages of each?
Sexual Strategies Games
• Explain how to play the Asexual and Sexual Reproduction Strategies games. These games model the evolutionary advantages and disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction. Games are from Experimental Daily Lesson Plans.
• Discuss the results of the games. Did all groups get the same results? What patterns did we find? In general, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of reproduction? What types of environments would we expect to find more asexually reproducing organisms? Sexually reproducing organisms? What are some examples of each type of organism? Are there any organisms that practice both types of reproduction?
The Evolutionary Rationale for Menstruation
• Pre-discussion: Most mammals don’t menstruate. Why might humans? Gather as many hypotheses as possible. Discuss ways that the hypotheses could be tested.
• Read “Why do women menstruate?” by PZ Meyers as a shared reading. Discuss the conclusions. Is the evidence presented compelling? What further evidence would strengthen this explanation? What evidence would weaken it?
• In preparation for the upcoming exam, create an essay, poster, illustrated pamphlet, children’s book, cartoon, or other item to explain any of the organ systems we have studied so far this year. Be prepared to share your item with your classmates
Dotti, Kristen Daniels. Experimental Biology Daily Lesson Plans. N.p.: Catalyst Learning Curricula, n.d. Print.
“FLASH Lesson Plans: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Program.” FLASH Lesson Plans: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Curriculum. King County, WA, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. <http://www.kingcounty.gov/health/flash>.
Kapit, Wynn, and Lawrence M. Elson. The Anatomy Coloring Book. New York, NY: HarperCollins College, 1993. Print
Meyers, P. Z. “Why Do Women Menstruate?” Pharyngula. N.p., 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. <http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/21/why-do-women-menstruate/>.
Miller, Kenneth R., and Joseph S. Levine. “Chapter 39: Endocrine and Reproductive Systems.” Prentice Hall Biology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. N. pag. Print.