Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Synthesizing Information: Evolving Ideas and the Development of the Worm Game

When the anatomy group began thinking about what might be on the inside of a worm, several members were initially unsure as to whether or not the worm had a brain…or even if it had a heart.  Some students entered into the discussion with anatomical understanding related to their own bodies, and others had to patiently rethink and examine their own ideas as part of the constructive dialogue process.   Below are excerpts from their (often very vigorous)discussions: 

D:  Our brain is made out of cells and they send messages to other brain cells and then to our bodies.
S:  The brain is NOT alive.  I know that.
K:  There’s no brain in the worm because they don’t think.
D:  If they don’t think, then how do they move?
K: The brain doesn’t make it move.
L:  The worms move by vibration, but if they didn’t have a brain, they couldn’t sense the vibration.
E: I think the brain is alive.  Our brain grows. 
D:  Your brain controls you.
S:  No it doesn’t!  I can control my body.
L:  Then how do you think? 
S: I think by my brain, but it’s not alive.  It controls our thinking but it doesn’t control our body.  How does the brain make my arms move?
D:  [waving his arms] The brain sends signals to make your arms move.
E:  Your brains have thoughts to help you move. 
R:  If something is moving, it’s alive?
D:  But machines move, and they’re not alive.  

On another day, S. reflected upon the group’s  previous discussion:
S:  I know my brain isn’t dead, but it’s not alive.
D: I think every part of you is alive.
D:  If worms have brains, they must have nervous systems.  That’s how your brain gives messages to the other parts of your body. 
L:  If there was a pan that was hot and I touched it, my brain would tell me to move my hand away real quick.
E:  The brain tells every part of your body to move.  I think it’s connected to the blood and the blood cells carry the messages. 
L:  Maybe there are special cells that aren’t blood cells that carry messages in the nervous system.  

What is the nervous system?
S: Nervous is like when you’re scared.  You’re nervous.  And like when you’re angry, you say, “You’re getting on my nerves!”  That means you’re annoying.  The nerves don’t help you feel angry, but I can feel the texture of this clay because the nerves are helping.  They’re inside.  They’re in everything.
L: Nerves are something to help you feel things.  It looks like orange strings. 
E: Nerves are like little cells. 
Where are they?  Not in the hair, but definitely in our legs, arms…
E: In the mouth.
L:  Inside the top of your mouth.  Your mouth has nerves. 
R: Your teeth feel things.  They have nerves.  You can see nerves and blood vessels in the eyes. 
L:  You don’t have nerves in your hair, but you do have them in your head.
S:  If you pull your hair, you’re going to feel pain. 

S:  Worms don’t have a brain or hearts.
D:  Sea anemones and jellyfish have no brains, but they do have a collection of nerves that act like a brain.  I still think a worm has a brain.
E:  The heart beats blood.
L:  It pumps.  It squeezes. The brain makes it squeeze.
D:  The heart doesn’t have its own brain, does it?
E:  I think the heart helps disintegrate the dirt [that the worm eats].
D:  I think they might need more than one heart.
R:  If the blood is flowing, it makes something alive and makes it move…but not all things that move have blood.  

Following several deep conversations with her peers, S. gave all this some serious thought.  The respectful dialogue with her peers helped to convince her that worms do indeed have a heart (maybe more than one) and some sort of brain inside to make them move.  

She then reached out to work with part of the movement group to further her understanding by helping them with a game they were creating. Making a game provided a different modality with which to think about their investigation, extending their knowledge about worms, and sharing it with the others in the class in a fun and engaging way.  The process involved a great deal of communication, cooperation, and required that they constantly revisit the goals, design, and rules of the game.  

In the video above, F. and I. talk about the pieces they created 
to show how a worm moves - these later became game pieces.

Build the Body Worm Game
This game will help you learn about what parts worms have inside of them – parts that they need to stay alive

Game pieces:  hearts, spine (body spring), brain, vein, blood, dirt, energy ball, plastic skin/flesh, spinner and die 
  Move your worm body part around the board from start to finish.                            
  You win by reaching the finish line and then you collect all the player’s  pieces to build the worm.
Spinner:  Has pictures of the things that make a worm healthy (heart, veins, brain, blood, dirt).                                            
o   Put down the small disk, blue side up
o   Spin the spinner above it, then drop it down
o   See if your colors match up
o   If they match up, roll the dice to move.

Special spots on the board:

Dark green spots:  bad disease (lose a turn)                                                                                 
Spots with arrows:  backward arrows mean you go back a spot; forward arrows mean go forward two spaces

Sun spot:  Oh no! You dried out in the sun!   
You’re out!                     

Once the game was created,
the girls then tested it with a group of their peers.

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