What our Endocrine System STEM lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Endocrine System STEM teaches students about the eight glands that make up this body system. Students will learn about the functions of these glands and about hormones. They will also discover how the endocrine system works with other systems to ensure the body functions properly. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, students will need crayons for the activity. You will also need to ensure they have internet access.
Options for Lesson
In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will see some suggestions for additional activities or ideas to add to the lesson if you want to. One idea is related to the activity. Choose a song for the entire class to use and piece together a verse about each of the endocrine glands for a single song. Then you can record it and send it out to parents and other classes in the school. Another option is to have students make an animation or a music video to accompany the song. One more idea is to investigate what an endocrinologist does and how they help people with problems in the endocrine system.
The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.
ENDOCRINE SYSTEM STEM LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Endocrine System and the Pituitary Gland
The Endocrine System STEM lesson plan contains three content pages. Students will learn that the glands of this body system inform our cells what to do and when to do them by releasing certain hormones. Without these hormones, much of the natural processes of our bodies wouldn’t occur. For instance, without the growth hormones from the pituitary gland, our bones wouldn’t know when to grow.
The various endocrine glands are found throughout the body. There are eight in total, and they come in different shapes and sizes. The most important one is the pituitary gland. It is the master endocrine gland because it makes and releases lots of hormones that control other glands and bodily functions. One might think it’s a large gland given its job, but it’s actually just the size of a pea!
The pituitary gland sits just beneath the brain. It is responsible, as mentioned, for producing growth hormones that make us grow. It also secretes endorphins, which are chemicals that act on the nervous system and reduce pain. In addition, this gland controls the menstrual cycle of women.
This important endocrine gland produces many hormones, including prolactin, thyrotropin, corticotropin, antidiuretic, and oxytocin. Each of these has a different function. For instance, thyrotropin stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Corticotropin stimulates the adrenal gland to produce hormones as well. And antidiuretic hormones help control body water balance by affecting the kidneys.
Thyroid, Parathyroids, and Adrenal Glands
Another important gland is the thyroid. Shaped like a butterfly and in the front part of the lower neck, it produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones control the rate at which cells use up their energy. The more thyroid hormone we have in our bodies, the faster chemical reactions will happen. These hormones also help us stay alert and energetic. Like the pituitary gland, the thyroid is essential for growth and development.
Parathyroids are a collection of four tiny glands that attach to the thyroid. They work together to release parathyroid hormones and calcitonin. These hormones regulate the amount of calcium in the blood. Further down the body are two adrenal glands that rest on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland has two parts: an adrenal cortex and an adrenal medulla.
The adrenal cortex is the outer part that makes corticosteroids, which help control a number of different things. It controls the salt and water balance in the body, the body’s response to stress, and metabolism levels. The adrenal medulla is the inner part that makes catecholamines like epinephrine (adrenaline). Adrenaline increases blood pressure and heart rate when a person is under stress.
An interesting fact about the adrenal glands is that they help us out when we are in trouble. Basically, they kick in when we are under stress or sick. Adrenaline gives the body a super boost when we need to run away from a saber-toothed tiger, for instance. In other words, it gives us that surge of energy to get away from a scary situation.
Pineal Gland, Hypothalamus, and Pancreas
Next, students will learn about the pineal gland. This gland is located right in the middle of the brain. It secretes melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate when we sleep at night and wake up in the morning. Some people who have trouble sleeping take melatonin in some form, such as a pill, to help them sleep.
The hypothalamus, like the pineal gland, is in the brain. Located in the lower central part of the brain, it gathers information about your environment to send to the pituitary gland. This includes information like temperature, mood, or amount of light. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus make chemicals. These chemicals combine with the environmental information to control the hormones that the pituitary gland secretes.
The largest of the eight endocrine glands is the pancreas. The pancreas rests somewhere in the abdominal or belly area. It makes a bunch of different hormones, including insulin. Insulin is what helps glucose (or sugar in the blood) enter into the body’s cells. Our cells need glucose to function properly, just as a car needs fuel.
Finally, students will learn about the reproductive glands of the endocrine system. Both males and females have gonads. In males, the gonads are called testes, and in females, the gonads are ovaries. Testes are located in the scrotum and secrete a hormone called testosterone. This hormone tells a male body when it is time to grow facial and pubic hair, deepen his voice, and grow taller. Testosterone also works with the pituitary gland to tell the body when to produce sperm.
A female’s ovaries are located in her pelvis. Ovaries produce eggs and secrete estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for breast growth, body fat around the hips and thighs, and growth during puberty. Both hormones help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and play a significant role during pregnancy.
Sometimes our body systems do not function the way they are supposed to. That can happen with the endocrine system as well. For instance, if the pituitary gland stopped secreting growth hormone, we would not grow as quickly as we should. A common problem with this body system is diabetes. When a person’s pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, their glucose levels get out of balance. Luckily, doctors (endocrinologists) know precisely how to help get it back on track.
ENDOCRINE SYSTEM STEM LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Endocrine System STEM lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.
GLAND SONG ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work in small groups for the activity. Each group will choose one gland or a specific hormone to write a song about. They can pick a song they like and must write at least one verse to the chosen tune. If you want, you can choose the song and have all the students write their lyrics to the same tune. You might also assign each group the gland or hormone they will write about and later put all the verses together.
GOING ON STRIKE PRACTICE WORKSHEET
For the practice worksheet, students will imagine that the endocrine glands have all stopped working. They will write a list of health problems that could occur if each of the eight glands failed to work. They should base their answers on what the responsibilities of those glands are. For instance, since the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, a health problem would involve the lack of insulin.
ENDOCRINE GLANDS STEM HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
The homework assignment requires students to remember the responsibility or job of each gland. They must use eight different colors and match the gland with its job, hormones, or place in the body. A few glands have more than one function or hormone.
Worksheet Answer Keys
The lesson provides answer keys for both the practice and homework worksheets. The correct answers for the practice worksheet are in red, but there may be some variation in what students find. For the homework assignment, the answer key provides a color code and numbers to make it easy to compare the correct answers to students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.