Exploring Homeostasis And Feedback Loops With Diabetes - Preview

Exploring Homeostasis And Feedback Loops With Diabetes

Subject: Biology,Environmental Science
Time: 10 (45-50 minute) class periods

High School Honors Biology

Unit Overview

This series of lessons is designed to help students understand how negative feedback loops help to maintain a dynamic equilibrium within the human body. Students will engage in 3-D lessons and activities to recognize that the function of the endocrine system is to regulate and coordinate multiple organ systems in order to preserve homeostasis.  Students will learn about the role of glucose as an energy molecule in our body and the hormone/receptor mediated mechanism that controls the molecule's uptake into cells.  Students will use modeling software to understand the constant flux of hormones and glucose levels that, over time, produce a stable system. 

Note: This unit assumes a pre & post assessment (2 class periods total)

Lesson 1

In the first lesson, students are introduced to the idea of diabetes by watching a short video and generating questions about the disease that will be revisited throughout the unit.  Students will create an initial explanatory model of how they think blood glucose levels are regulated within the body and how diabetes represents a system out of balance. 

Lesson 2

In this lesson, students will assume the role of a diagnostician and complete a hands-on lab investigation to "confirm" that a patient has diabetes through urinalysis. Students will begin to understand the ways in which doctors check for vital signs, or a set of measurements within a narrow range, that tell them if a patient's body system is out of balance.  Students will try to connect their understanding of a previous unit through a series of homework questions that connect diabetes symptoms to body systems. 

Lesson 3

Students will explore the different energy molecules that the human body uses for metabolic processes.  Students will analyze and interpret data and text to understand what tissues of the body use glucose as their energy molecule and create a diagram to show the allocation of glucose throughout the different parts of the body. 

Lesson 4‚Äč

Students will complete a reading and analyze graphs to understand how the body maintains stability the internal environment by responding to changes in the external environment.  Students will use evidenced gathered in this activity to support the previously stated claim.  

Lesson 5

Students will conduct a set of investigations to help them understand that the human body regulates internal conditions as external conditions change.  Students will create and analyze graphs to support their claim that the human body has a set point for internal conditions such as temperature, pH, heart/breathing rate, etc. 

Lesson 6

Students will participate in a hands on activity to understand how the endocrine system relays messages from the brain to the target organs.  Students will create paper models of the interaction between organs, receptors and organic molecules based on given scenarios. 

Lesson 7

Students will complete a reading and set of questions to understand the hormone/receptor mediated mechanism of glucose regulation.  Students will understand how insulin and glucagon communicate to a cell to release/take up glucose. 

Lesson 8

Students will use a computer model to understand negative feedback loops.  Students will manipulate the amount of glucose within the model to see how the system stabilizes by changing the levels of the hormones insulin and glucagon to elicit a cellular response. 

Lesson 9

This lesson helps students to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  Once students have a better understanding of the different mechanisms between the two forms of the disease, they will analyze graphs and texts to demonstrate understanding. 

Students will participate in a jigsaw activity to learn about the ways in which Diabetes 1 and 2 differ and the risk factors associated with both diseases.  After the students have gathered enough information, they will revise their initial explanatory models to demonstrate a full understanding of the mechanism of the disease. 

Lessons Overview

1. Lesson 1: Living with Diabetes Overview

In this introductory activity, students will watch two videos of people living with diabetes and create initial explanatory models to access any prior knowledge they may have about the disease and anchor the lessons throughout the unit. 

2. Lesson 2: Testing for Diabetes Overview

In this lesson, students assume the role of diagnosticians and complete urinalysis to determine if a patient has diabetes. 

3. Lesson 3: Understanding the Utilization of Glucose Throughout the Body Overview

In this lesson, students analyze a data table of energy consumption by body type and investigate what energy molecules are used in different parts of the body to create a "glucunculus" to understand what parts of our body rely on glucose to meet their energy requirements. 

NOTE: It's helpful to print out the human body outline on 11 x 17 paper, but not necessary (I find it cuts down on students trying to make a perfect outline). 


4. Lesson 4: Balancing Glucose and Understanding Homeostasis Overview

After students have created their glucunculus and read about how the tissues in the body utilize glucose in different amounts, students should start wondering how our glucose levels change throughout the day through eating, exercise, sleeping, etc.  Start this lesson by telling them that the glucunculus they created was from a person at rest.  How might those drawings change if the person was exercising? These series of readings can be jigsawed and do not need to be completed on the CT-Stem platform, but the guiding questions are provided here as a means to start discussions, assess student understanding and probe student thinking. These readings could also be completed as homework/outside of class if you are limited on time.  The readings provide the background knowledge on homeostasis, and they have been adapted from Project Neuron, BSCS Biology: A Human Approach and the Health and Science Pipeline Initiative. 

5. Lesson 5: Homeostasis in Other Body Systems Overview

In order for students to gain a deeper understanding of homeostasis in the human body, groups will design their own experiment (with parameters) to test how internal conditions remain stable as external conditions change. 

In each of these experiments, you can use whatever resource you would like for your lab set up.  The following are general outlines for each: 

Temperature Investigation: 

Test subject should submerge hand in ice water (no longer than 30 seconds).  Two temperature probes are required, one taped to the hand that is in ice water (make sure to cover with tape as much as possible so that the probe is recording temperature of skin rather than water), and one in the crook of the elbow of the same hand (this represents core). Temperature recordings should be taken continuously over time (preferably 5 minutes or longer) to show the body attempting to recover surface temperature and maintain core.

Pulse/Breathing Rate: 

Students can pick whatever exercise they want to do for this investigation, but make sure they are very clear on how to record pulse & breathing rate (read for 30 sec intervals and multiply by 2).  Again, the readings should take place for up to 5 minutes (preferably longer) after the exercise to show the systems returning to stability.  


Various homogenates can stand in for the living system - a potato "smoothie", a liver "smoothie," even whole milk should work.  The general set up is 2 test cups (less than 25 mL each) of homogenate and 2 test cups of distilled water.  2 members can test the effect of 1.0M HCl and 2 members can test 1.0M NaOH.  Acid/base is added 5 drops at a time to homogenate/water and pH is tested after each addition of drops (30-35 drops total).  Again, more is better, but 30-35 drops should be enough to show the change in water and the relative stability of living system.  NOTE: remind students to "swirl" after adding drops and not to insert pH strip/meter in the same place as drops were added.  The homogenates sometimes separate out into water and living cells, so make sure they are stirring to maintain a fairly consistent mix. 

6. Lesson 6: Regulating Homeostasis Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about how the endocrine system regulates multiple body systems through hormonal control. 

7. Lesson 7: Cellular Regulation of Glucose Overview

In this lesson, students will explore the receptor mediated mechanism of glucose regulation.  Students will gain a very basic understanding of glucose, insulin, glucagon and cell membrane receptor proteins.  This lesson serves to link the previous lesson with the content around the endocrine system and feedback loops. 

Compatible With




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Next Generation Science Standards
  • Life Science
    • [HS-LS2] Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • NGSS Crosscutting Concept
    • Patterns
    • Causation
    • Systems
    • Stability and Change
  • NGSS Practice
    • Asking Questions, Defining Problems
    • Using Models
    • Analyzing Data

Computational Thinking in STEM
  • Modeling and Simulation Practices
    • Using Computational Models to Understand a Concept
  • Systems Thinking Practices
    • Investigating a Complex System as a Whole
    • Understanding the Relationships within a System
  • Data Practices
    • Analyzing Data


These lessons utilize resources from Project Neuron, a curriculum program developed by the University of Illinois, and HASPI (Health and Science Pipeline Initiatives). 

Comments, Feedback, and Questions


Computational Thinking in Science and Math

Lesson 4: Balancing Glucose and Understanding Homeostasis

The glucunculus you created in your last diagram represented the use of glucose by different organs/tissues when the body is at rest.  But what would happen if you started exercising? Would the muscles change the amount of glucose they were using? What about studying hard for an exam - would the brain use more glucose then it did at rest?  How does your body regulate and respond when conditions change? The concept of homeostasis, or maintaining dynamic equilibrium, will be explored in this lesson.