In this article, we are going to look at some useful notes and questions which have come up and past papers regarding the human reproduction system topic in your junior cycle biology course.
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
Human Reproduction - Junior Cycle Learning Objectives
By the time you're reading this, you have probably already gone through some of this topic in class. But what are the objectives of learning about the human reproductive system in junior cycle science? Below is the list I have created, with information gathered on the main objectives for this topic.
- To understand the general structure and function of both male and female reproductive systems.
- To describe the role of meiosis in the production of sperm and egg cells.
- To understand and be able to describe the events of the menstrual cycle and the roles of oestrogen and progesterone.
- To describe the population and the four types of birth control.
- To understand and describe where fertilisation occurs in the human body.
- To be able to note one cause of and one corrective measure for infertility in both male and female reproductive organs.
- To gain a basic knowledge of and describe in vitro fertilisation and implantation.
- To describe the process of birth.
- To understand human milk production and breastfeeding, including the biological benefits of breastfeeding.
I should mention now, as in the articles for the other topics such as Evolution and Living Organisms, we are not going to have enough time to cover every objective that was mentioned, however, we are going to look at a few of them in more detail.
As this whole topic is more or less hinged on the function of both male and female reproductive systems, it only makes sense that we will take a few short notes on it.
Let's start with what the male and female reproductive systems have in common. Both males and females have:
- A pair of structures to produce gametes (sex cells by Meiosis).
- A series of tubes for Transport.
- Glands that secrete hormones, which control reproduction.
Junior Cycle Biology - The Female Human Reproductive System
Now that we know what they have in common let's look at the reproductive systems individually.
The main internal parts of the female reproductive system are as follows:
- Vagina - The vagina is a canal that joins the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) to the outside of the body. It also is known as the birth canal.
- Uterus (womb) - The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that is the home to a developing fetus. The uterus is divided into two parts: the cervix, which is the lower part that opens into the vagina, and the main body of the uterus, called the corpus. The corpus can easily expand to hold a developing baby. A canal through the cervix allows sperm to enter and menstrual blood to exit.
- Ovaries - The ovaries are small, oval-shaped glands that are located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones.
- Fallopian tubes - These are narrow tubes that are attached to the upper part of the uterus and serve as pathways for the ova (egg cells) to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilization of an egg by a sperm normally occurs in the fallopian tubes. The fertilized egg then moves to the uterus, where it implants to the uterine lining.
The female reproductive system enables a woman to:
- produce eggs (ova)
- have sexual intercourse
- protect and nourish a fertilized egg until it is fully developed
- give birth
Junior Cycle Biology - The Male Human Reproductive System
Unlike the female reproductive system, most of the male reproductive system is located outside of the body and are as follows:
- Penis: This is the male organ used in sexual intercourse. It has three parts: the root, which attaches to the wall of the abdomen; the body, or shaft; and the glans, which is the cone-shaped part at the end of the penis. The glans, also called the head of the penis, is covered with a loose layer of skin called the foreskin. This skin is sometimes removed in a procedure called circumcision. The opening of the urethra, the tube that transports semen and urine, is at the tip of the penis. The glans of the penis also contains a number of sensitive nerve endings.
- Scrotum: This is the loose pouch-like sac of skin that hangs behind and below the penis. It contains the testicles (also called testes), as well as many nerves and blood vessels. The scrotum acts as a "climate control system" for the testes. For normal sperm development, the testes must be at a temperature slightly cooler than body temperature.
- Testicles (testes): These are oval organs about the size of large olives that lie in the scrotum, secured at either end by a structure called the spermatic cord. Most men have two testes. The testes are responsible for making testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, and for generating sperm. Within the testes are coiled masses of tubes called seminiferous tubules. These tubes are responsible for producing sperm cells.
Some of the internal organs of the male reproductive system include the following:
- Epididymis: The epididymis is a long, coiled tube that rests on the backside of each testicle. It transports and stores sperm cells that are produced in the testes.
- Prostate gland: The prostate gland is a walnut-sized structure that is located below the urinary bladder in front of the rectum. The prostate gland contributes additional fluid to the ejaculate. Prostate fluids also help to nourish the sperm.
- Urethra: The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In males, it has the additional function of ejaculating semen when the man reaches orgasm. When the penis is erect during sex, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, allowing only semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.
Things to Remember When Studying the Human Reproductive Systems
As with all areas of your science course for the junior cycle, including the reproductive systems, digestive system and genetics, there are specific things that you should try to keep in mind when you're revising a certain topic.
When it comes to the human reproductive systems there are two things that are particularly important to keep in mind, especially when it comes to your exam:
- Get to know all of the diagrams. The male reproductive system, the female reproductive system, the egg cycle and the embryo. Knowing how to correctly label each of these in the exam well almost definitely come in useful.
- Having a note of important keywords and also be important when it comes to your final examination at the end of year three, sometimes writing a quick note on keywords or points will make it easier for you to recognise and use in future.
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