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What Is a Neuron?

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What Is a Neuron?

This neuroscience activity introduces learners to how messages are sent and received by neurons. Learners use modeling clay and pipe cleaners to build model neurons. This lesson guide includes background information, extension ideas, and handout.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • transparency of Transmitters & Receivers student sheet
  • overhead projector
  • resealable plastic bag, approx. 12 x 15 in. (or gal size, see SETUP)
  • roll of masking tape, 0.75 in.
  • modeling clay (or small styrofoam balls)
  • pipe cleaners (4 per model)
  • copies of Transmitters & Receivers student sheet


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

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes assesments for student learning

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Moreno, Nancy P.; Tharp, Barbara Z.


  • All Rights Reserved, Baylor College of Medicine, ©2003

Funding Sources:

  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Center for Research Resources
  • Science Education Partnership Award, R25 RR13454


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