Humans, like all animals, have life cycles that begin at birth and end in death. However, humans share much more in common with their furry mammal relatives than that; in fact humans and all other mammals share most of the hallmarks of life cycle stages. When discussing the human life cycle with a class, you can get as detailed or as simple as you'd like to, including sexual education or leaving it out. In addition, you can discuss specific life cycle events invented by humans, particularly if you are teaching the human life cycle within a religious context.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Whiteboard or chalkboard
- Whiteboard markers or chalk
- Biology posters of the human body at different stages
Begin by discussing when the life cycle commences: at birth, although some scientists would suggest that the life cycle begins when eggs are fertilised and begin to develop. For younger children, you can complicate the matter less by leaving the sex out of it. For older children, you can use this as a springboard to begin to discuss sexual education and how eggs are fertilised. With younger children, discuss their lives as babies, their impressions of babies and what kind of activities they did as babies.
Discuss the childhood and adolescence of a child, the second stage of human life. With older children, you can use this also as a springboard for discussing sexual maturation. During this time children mature into teenagers. Girls begin to develop and start their first menstruation cycle, and boys begin to grow facial hair, develop deep voices, produce sperm for the first time and experience surges in testosterone levels. When discussing this process with younger children, you can talk about how this is the long transition from childhood to adulthood. Talk about different life cycle events humans have during this period, both secular and religious, such as the prom, learning to drive, starting high school and then going to college, confirmation and bar mitzvah.
Graduate to discussing adulthood. During this period, usually categorised between 18 to the 50s or 60s, humans often reproduce. Both women and men are in their reproductive prime in their 20s; however, with technology available to humans and the way our society has moved, many men and women wait until they are in their 30s or 40s to have children. Men and women are fully formed by their adulthood and will not grow taller. Ask students what perceptions they have about adulthood. Have them write a little bit about what they would like to be when they grow up, how many children they would like to have, if any, and which human-made life cycle events adults participate in.
Talk to the children about ageing. Ageing typically starts in the 30s when wrinkles begin to appear. As men and women approach their 50s, hormone levels decrease, bodies become less firm, sensory organs become less accurate and acute, and both women and men stop being able to reproduce (although this typically occurs much later in men than in women). Discuss changes children have noticed in their grandparents or great-grandparents and how this is different from their parents. Have children write about how they plan to live when they are older and discuss human-made life cycle events that occur in old age such as retiring or entering into a home for the elderly.
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