Time to Think?

Serendip Studio
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Experiment/Lab Activity , Tool/Software
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This resource allows the user to accurately measure and experiment with human reaction time. An interactive program measures reaction times in milliseconds and compares them in different cases (from simply reacting to a visual cue to having to read and then make a decision before reacting). This site provides a wide range of information and activities on the connection between the brain and behavior. Note: Link is to main introductory page. Scroll down to find links for the activity and others pages that allow users to view the results of other participants and guidance for conducting further research.

Intended Audience

- none -
Educational Level
- none -
Access Restrictions

- none -

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-2 Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on systems of information transfer.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the mechanisms by which the brain stores and recalls information or the mechanisms of how sensory receptors function.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This resource focuses exclusively on the exploration of human visual information processing and response time given different processing demands. Teachers would need to make explicit how the different processing requirements explored (reacting, reading then reacting, reading and doing the opposite of the written instructions) can affect response time.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
After completing 10 trials measuring reaction time for each of four cases, data can be automatically plotted, saved electronically, and compared to more than 1000 subjects who have previously submitted their data. Additionally, data could be recorded and graphed in class to allow analysis and comparison with others in the class. This would provide an opportunity for the teacher to provide experiences showing students how larger sample sizes allow more confidence in their conclusions.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The activity focuses on reception and response to visual information only. Teachers should consider extending the learning to explore the response to stimuli received through other senses.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Although the activity explores the interaction between specific components of the human nervous system, no explicit connection is made to Systems and System Models. Teachers could relate learning from this activity to the entire human nervous system, as well as to other body systems in humans or other organisms.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Though the Serendip Studio website offers a range of resources, this specific resource is intended to be a data collection and display tool.

  • Instructional Supports: Teachers could extend the learning from this resource as part of a unit on human or other animal senses after having studied the connection between the sense organs and the brain. Results could be recorded in Science Journals, and teachers should make connections between reaction time and the survival of an organism. Students could be guided to create their own variables affecting reaction time and to design investigations testing reaction time by a different method using this resource. A related activity not requiring a computer for measuring reaction time that also has students design and conduct their own investigations can be found on the CT State Dept. Of Education Science webpage [http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&q=320890 ]

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Although students could save and print their data, this resource is intended mainly to be a data collection and display tool. Teachers could develop additional materials and create activities to allow for student assessment and/or opportunities for presentation of collected data.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The online reaction time measurement tool claims to be accurate to the nearest millisecond. The Shockwave plug-in is required, so it will not work on an iPad. The project main page provides much background information on a variety of related topics. Links are provided to other online simulations and applets that explore reaction time. Not all links are currently functional.