Jumpin' the Gap

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In this simulation of synapses, learners act out communication at the neural level by behaving as pre-synaptic vesicles, neurotransmitters, post-synaptic receptors, secondary messengers and re-uptake transporters. Neurotransmitters and receptors interact via “lock-and key” puzzle pieces (included). An adaptation of this activity includes modifying the learners' roles to illustrate the effect of drugs on the synapse.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life

Informal Categories

  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Hartman, Carrie ; Malone, Molly ; Nicholson, Brendan

Source Collection

  • Teach.Genetics


  • All rights reserved, University of Utah, 2005

Funding Source:

  • Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services