Pom Pom Potential

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In this kinesthetic activity, learners move pom-pom "ions" across a membrane to simulate how an action potential is propagated along an axon. Conducted as a group activity, this color-coded simulation helps learners visualize how an action potential travels down a neuron. Learners also get to eat candy during this simulation!

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 600 green pom-poms
  • 300 blue pom-poms
  • 1 large bag of small candies (M&M’s®, Skittles®, jelly beans)
  • 2 color overheads


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

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • 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


  • Scheidell, Steve ; Malone, Molly ; Nicholson, Brendan ; VanDijk, David

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