Human Body Unit: Heart and Circulatory System Activities

Our study of the heart and circulatory system started with a listen to our own heartbeats. We measured our heart rates when resting and after walking, running and skipping. Then using a graph put out by Texas heart institute(4th grade curriculum, p. 25), we graphed our results.

Heart as a Pump:

We did this experiment: When your heart beats it acts like a tennis ball filled with water. The heart muscle squeezes blood out of its way. Between beats it goes back to its original shape.  The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet. The kids had a tough time actually squeezing the tennis ball, but they got the idea.

Our bodies have 5.6 liters of blood.  We measured that out in a big pot:

Circulatory System Activity:
This is how Harold looked before we started. I named him to pique the kids’ interest!

 We sat down together and I explained how blood that has no oxygen heads to the heart and into the lungs.  There is picks up oxygen (I said it more along the lines of “OH MY GET ME SOME OXYGEN QUIIIiiiiiCK!”).  Then I drew the lines in red showing how the oxygenated blood heads back to the heart and then gets squeezed out to the body.  I showed how some blood travels to the brain, some to the arms, fingers, legs, toes, etc. etc.)  The blood drops off oxygen and then returns in veins (blue lines) back to the heart where it is sent off to the lungs to pick up more oxygen.

After we drew the lines — arteries and veins — together, I got two tiles.  I put the blue tile on top and the red tile on the bottom.  I traveled from the heart as a blue tile (with red underneath) to the lungs where I flipped over and became the red sided tile.  Then I ‘drove’ my red tile back through the heart and out into the body.  I decided to go to the brain to drop of oxygen where I flipped my red tile back to blue.  The blue tile traveled along the blue veins back to the heart and then to the lungs.

After we all took a number of turns doing that, we piled blue/red or red/blue tiles all over Harold’s body to show the path of blood.

I searched everywhere for a heart-circulatory activity and never found one… but this activity that somehow jumped into my head turned out to be a HUGE hit in our house!! The kids even spent a long time “teaching” Dad what they had learned!

 One last picture of this activity:
 Heart and Circulatory Activity

Blood Activity:

Another day we learned a bit more about blood. We cut open a chicken leg bone (before baking it for lunch) and examined the bone marrow. We had read in one of our books that bone marrow is where blood cells are formed. We took a close look at the bone marrow, poked and prodded.

Then we “made” our own blood.  The types of cells made in bone marrow include red cells, white cells and platelets.    We talked again about the basic function of these cells.

  • the fluid is called plasma (corn syrup)
  • red cells carry the oxygen (red jelly beans)
  • white cells fight infection (white jelly beans)
  • platelets help to clot and form scabs (rice)
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The Wrinkled Heart Activity: And now on a related, but different note… today I decided to address the heart in the emotional sense too. I found this wonderful idea at ProTeacher. It is an activity about the things people say that can be hurtful and the things people say that can be kind.  Before I read Chrysanthemum to the kids (since that’s the book I had on hand), I cut out a heart.  Then after we read the book we talked about the things the mice said that were hurtful (and I made folds in the heart) and things we’ve said to each other that have been hurtful (more folds) and things that they’ve heard others say that might be hurtful (more folds). Then we talked about things we say that are kind (unfold). We said as many kind things as we could until the heart was unfolded. Then we talked about how the heart was still wrinkled and how the hurtful things we hear can linger for a while in our heart. We hung our wrinkled heart in the homeschool room as a reminder to be kind to one another. What a lovely idea, don’t you think?

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  1. by Leann @ MontessoriTidbits

    On September 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

    AWESOME! I am sooo doing this with my son! You have some of the best ideas… thanks for inspiring me!

  2. by Tiger's Mum

    On September 26, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Wow, this is so interesting! I'm bookmarking this for the time when we come to study the human body. Thanks for sharing!

  3. by Marta

    On September 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Doing the same, bookmarking that activity!I love when dad comes home and my baby shows everything he learned to him. Precious moments..Never heard about A Wrinkled Heart activity! Very interesting way of teaching.You did great lesson! Two thumbs up!!!Martaxoxo from Hawaii

  4. by sarah in the woods

    On September 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    i love how hands-on this is. Great lessons!

  5. by Homeschool @ sg

    On September 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Wow very comprehensive! You must have done lots of prep work!

  6. by Kylie

    On September 27, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Liesl, I am in love with the heart idea, fabulous :-)

  7. by Zonnah

    On October 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    You amaze me!

  8. by Abby

    On October 17, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I love the wrinkled heart activity. We are studying the human body as well. My oldest daughter did a similar activity years ago when she was still in public school. I think this activity would resonate with my girls. Thanks for sharing! The unit looks excellent!

  9. by Deb Chitwood

    On February 6, 2012 at 6:24 am

    What a great way to study the heart and circulatory system! I LOVE your activities! I featured your post and photo in my Montessori-Inspired Heart and Circulatory System post at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2012/02/06/montessori-monday-montessori-inspired-heart-and-circulatory-system-activities/

  10. by brenna

    On February 6, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Love the big body drawn to shown the blood flow from the heart and back. Think I'll use this idea during our health theme. Thanks.

  11. [...] at ProTeacher. I first did this with the kids a couple of years ago when we were studying the heart and circulatory system.  It is an activity that shows how hurtful words and actions can linger; it reminds us to be kind [...]

  12. [...] Human Body Unit: Heart and Circulatory System Activities [...]

  13. [...] the circulatory system [...]

  14. [...] something I did with the kids a couple of years ago when we were studying the heart and circulatory system.  It is an activity that shows how hurtful words and actions can linger; it reminds us to be kind [...]

  15. [...] Human Body Unit: Heart and Circulatory System Activities [...]

  16. [...] returning to the heart to be pumped out again… It’s been three years since we did the circulatory system and heart activities, but the kids still talk about Harold (pictured [...]