Activities and Curriculum

When I sat down to write about the A.T.O.M. Science Club “curriculum,” I realized that I would have to create a schedule showing what material I teach during each weekly meeting. This process begins to destroy the joy, spontaneity, and creativity of teaching, as well as what I seek most: a feeling of reassurance from students that they understand the concepts I am teaching them.

For me, teaching is a mentally and verbally interactive experience. I work hard to connect visually with students until I can see the ah-ha in their eyes, the relaxation on their faces, and the smiles on their lips, and sometimes, much to my delight, hear them express verbally, “I get it!” This is the part of my job I enjoy the most.

Most teachers use a curriculum. I purposely avoid doing this to ensure that I will have enough time to help science club members truly understand whatever topic they are learning about. If this means spending an extra week exploring a subject, or changing the order of topics, that’s what I’ll do. This approach also means I have the freedom to use current examples of scientific events that might happen as I am teaching. For example, if we experience a lightning storm (a flow of electrons also known as electricity) or an earthquake (an example of plate tectonics), I can explore those concepts with the students immediately, in the moment.

Science club members understand how deeply I care that they understand the concepts, so we keep working as a group until everyone gets it. As I always tell club members: if they aren’t prepared to use, talk about, and explain concepts outside the science club house, then I will have failed them. What’s the point of teaching if the curriculum forces me to move on before the students understand?

However, I understand that parents and potential A.T.O.M. Science Club members will want to have some idea of what we cover during science club meetings. You can get a good overview by reading A Taste of A.T.O.M. Science Club. And below is an example outline showing one of the topics I have covered with my advanced students. During the year, they will receive enough in-depth information so that at the end of the year, the students are capable of performing—and understanding!—a brain dissection.


  • Define biology
    1. What is life?
    2. What are the characteristics of life?
    3. Smallest functional unit = cell
      1. Parts of a cell (for example: organelles, DNA, cell membrane)
      2. Whole cell
  • Study the brain so we can study how cells work in one organ of the body
    1. Study cells found in the brain (for example: neurons, glial, Schwann cells)
    2. Parts of the brain (for example: prefrontal cortex, neocortex, temporal Lobe)
    3. Study includes both: CNS (Central Nervous system) and PNS (peripheral nervous system)
  • Study how our brains work consciously.
  • Taking in information
    1. Study our 5 senses
    2. Learn lobes in the brain that first get the information.
  • Processing the information = thinking
    1. Past: memory (first the brain tries to identify input from past experiences).
      1. Study current research attempting to understand how memory works.
      2. Learn ways to help your memory retain information.
    2. Present: then the brain communicates the information between its parts.
    3. Future: Respond to information (output) and/or store information (memory).
    4. Understand why it is important to take time to THINK before you respond.
  • Study how our brain controls our body without our awareness.
    1. Examples: Digestion, Circulation
    2. Fight or Flight
  • Study our own brains.
    1. What do we all have in common.
    2. What is unique to each individual brain including your own.
      1. Learning styles.
      2. Difference between the left brain and right brain.
    3. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
    4. The effects of drugs and alcohol on your brain.
    5. The importance things you must give your brain to keep it healthy.
      1. sleep
      2. water
      3. nutrition
      4. oxygen
  • When caring for your pet (cat, dog, hamster, fish) consider its brain.
  • Einstein’s brain; was it different, did he have a mutated brain due to his DNA?
  • Brain dissection (optional) for any science club member, at the end of the year, after completion of the above instruction.