Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students use the drag-and-drop game Build-a-Body: Nervous System to build a human nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Case studies challenge students to put their new knowledge of the nervous system to the test.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify and learn about the organs that make up the human nervous system.
  2. Build a nervous system using an interactive simulation, and discover how the organs work together.
  3. Small dry erase boards for each pair or small group, or sheets of paper


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Small dry erase boards for each pair or small group, or sheets of paper



This lesson plan features the simulation Build-a-Body: Nervous System developed by our partner,  Spongelab Interactive. This playful interactive challenges students to build a human nervous system by dragging and dropping associated organs into to the correct place. The interactive also challenges students to case studies in which they read about a problem and then identify the organ affected by the problem   

Preview and play Build-a-Body: Nervous System  to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. Review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For more information about using interactive simulations effectively in the classroom, review our Educator’s Guide to Teaching with Digital Interactive Models and Teaching Strategies for Interactive Simulations.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Nervous System, Human Body, Spinal Cord, Neurons, Brain, Zika Virus

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Prompt students to share what they know about the human nervous system, such as the three parts that make up this system: brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
  2. After everyone shares their ideas, play the BrainPOP movie Nervous System on the whiteboard or other display.  
  3. Project the Build-a-Body: Nervous System interactive on the whiteboard. Explain that that today they will explore and assemble a human nervous system. After, they will review case studies in which they must associate a functional problem within the nervous system the affected organ.
  4. Read, or invite a volunteer to read, the information about the nervous system on the left side of the screen. Then choose, but do NOT click, one of the organs listed in the the tray on the right. Now challenge pairs to come up with a definition for that organ and write it on paper or a small dry erase board. On your signal, instruct each pair to hold up their definitions.
  5. Now click the organ and read the definition that displays on the left side of the screen. Compare the definition to each pair’s definition and award points based on the accuracy of their definitions (e.g., 3 points for a correct and highly detailed definition, 2 points for a correct definition that may be less detailed; 1 point for a partially correct definition, and 0 for an incorrect definition). For more in-depth game play, display all the responses in the front of the room and have the class analyze them together. They can rank the responses in the same way and a volunteer can keep track of each team’s points on the board
  6. After analyzing answers, have pairs work at their own computers or devices to click the organ and drag it to the correct position on the screen. Point out that the brain is made up of several parts, so they will need to assemble them before dragging and dropping the brain.
  7. Model how they can use the arrows to the left of the illustration to move up and down and the plus/minus to zoom in and out.
  8. Repeat the process of defining, comparing definitions, ranking, and dragging/dropping for each organ until the nervous system is assembled.
  9. After pairs assemble their nervous systems, challenge them to solve the case studies. Model the first one by clicking the Case Studies link on the top right side of the screen. Select the first case study and read, or have a volunteer read, the case study that displays on the left side. Then show them how to answer the question the case study presents by clicking the affected organ.
  10. Have partners complete the other case studies. Encourage them to discuss each case, and consider what they know, before clicking the affected organ. Circulate as students work, listening in on their discussions and strategies, providing support as needed.
  11. Bring the class together to reflect on the organs and problems they explored through the interactive. Have them share what new information they learned. You can return to the discussion questions from the beginning to assess what they’ve learned.

Extension Activities:

Challenge students to use what they’ve learned to play The Meaning of Beep: Nervous System.

Students may also play other body system Spongelab games, including: Build-A-Body: Skeletal System, Build-A-Body: Circulatory System, Build-A-Body: Excretory System, and Build-A-Body: Digestive System.