Lesson Plan: The Brainstem
Curriculum Alignment
NAEYC Accreditation Criteria for Curriculum Standards

2C.03 Children are provided varied opportunities and materials that support fine-motor development.

2C.04 Children have varied opportunities and are provided equipment to engage in large motor experiences that enhance sensory motor integration:

  • develop controlled movement (balance, strength, coordination)
  • range from familiar to new and challenging
  • help them learn physical games with rules and structure

2D.03 Children have varied opportunities to develop competence in verbal and nonverbal communication by responding to questions; communicating needs, thoughts, and experiences; and describing things and events.

2G.05 Children are provided varied opportunities and materials to collect data and to represent and document their findings, e.g. through drawing or graphing.

2G.06 Children are provide varied opportunities and materials that encourage them to think, question and reason about observed and inferred phenomena.

2G.07 Children are provided varied opportunities and materials that encourage them to discuss scientific concepts in everyday conversation.

2G.08 Children are provided varied opportunities and materials that help them learn and use scientific terminology and vocabulary associated with the content areas.

2J.01 Children are provided varied opportunities to gain an appreciation of art, music, drama, and dance in ways that reflect cultural diversity.

Head Start indicators

Scientific Knowledge

  • Expands knowledge of and abilities to observe, describe and discuss the natural world, materials, living things and natural processes.
  • Expands knowledge of and respect for their body and the environment.

Language Development:

Listening and Understanding

  • Demonstrates increasing ability to attend to and understand conversations, stories, songs, and poems.
  • Shows progress in understanding and following simple and multiple-step directions.
  • Understands an increasingly complex and varied vocabulary.

Speaking and Communicating

  • Develops increasing abilities to understand and use language to communicate information, experiences, ideas, feelings, opinions, needs, questions and for other varied purposes.
National Science Standards

NS.K-4.3 Life Science

As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of:

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Life cycles of organisms
  • Organisms and environments
Learning Objective

Your Brainstem is the most ancient part of the brain. It helps you breathe, swallow, blink, and more.


In this activity, students will learn about the Brainstem. The Brainstem is the part of the brain that helps you breathe, swallow and blink. Students will observe and learn how the body does these things without thinking.

What you will need:

  • Charts (see below)
  • Timer
  • Every Body Has a Brain Music
  • Pencils or crayons for record keeping


Begin by listening to the song from Every Body Has a Brain soundtrack, ‘Work Work Work in the Brainstem.’


In this song, students will hear some examples of how the Brainstem works.

Ask one student to volunteer to sit in the center of the circle. Have the other students watch the volunteer to observe how many times he or she blinks. NOTE: you might need to remind the students to let their Brainstems do the work, and try to NOT control their blinking.

Now hand out charts with clipboards to the students who are counting the blinks.

Number of Blinks

Help the students complete the chart, counting how many times the volunteer student blinks.

Now have the students split into partners. Using the charts, first, have them ask their partner how many times they think they will blink in one minute. Next, start a timer and tell students to begin their observation.

They will record each time a student blinks.

At the end of the timed period, have them switch and the blinker will have a chance to be the observer.

For older children: Have students additionally track their breaths or how many times they swallow. Give them a short demonstration and let them try counting breaths or swallows for different take on involuntary action and the Brainstem.

Conclude the lesson with a discussion about why the Brainstem is important. Ask students: Why do we need the Brainstem?

Provide coloring pages of the brain with the Brainstem labeled so students can interact with them during centers.

Further Exploration:

Use these games, stories, songs, and activities from Every Body Has a Brain to learn more about the Brainstem.

  • Work Work Work in the Brainstem
  • Here Comes the Brain Train
  • Brainstem Breathing
Download Printables