Where is Your Hippocampus?

As a psychology instructor, I feel passionate about the importance of understanding the brain and I think it is important for students to have a good understanding of brain function and brain anatomy.


By the time we are done with the chapter on the brain, I want students to be able to:

  • Label the parts of a neuron
  • Understand how neurons communicate
  • Label some of the major brain areas
  • Understand the function of major brain areas

This is brand new information for many students and can be complicated to comprehend and to remember, so I use hands-on activities in a “stations” format to get them involved in their learning in a more physical way.  Students are given handouts explaining the tasks at each station, and they work in groups of three and go to the following stations:

  1. Teach each other how neurons communicate.  I give them key words that they need to use in their teaching. They will immediately know if they truly understand how neurons communicate.  If they can’t explain the process to someone else, they’ll know they need to study further, and they can learn from each other.
  2. Label various brain areas.  Using the psychology team’s brain model, they identify 3 different brain areas.  I use the dice in a Smartboard presentation and I label each side of two different die with brain areas.  The student taps the Smartboard, which rolls the die.  They need to identify the brain area that comes up.
  3. Draw a neuron.  Each students draws a neuron and labels the parts.  They then check their work by looking at their notes.
  4. Playing cards worksheet.  Students are given a worksheet to fill out that lists 10 different brain areas and they need to identify what that brain area is responsible for while a person is playing a card game.  For example, for Hippocampus, the student could write that the hippocampus will help you learn and remember the rules of the game.  This worksheet can be used as a filler if some teams finish the other stations early, or if there is waiting for the stations.

Activities like this take planning and can be time consuming, but I find that this is time well-spent for me and for my students.

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