Week Twenty-Three: Cardiovascular System


October 12, 2015 by libraryheather

Program Title: Cardiovascular System

Target Age Range: Grades 1-3

Program Length: 60 minutes

Brief Description: 
Learn about blood’s role in the body and how the heart and lungs keep our blood flowing through our body.

1 package red water beads (a few teaspoonfuls rehydrated)


6 ping pong balls

1 half sheet off-white foam cut into small circles

1 shoe box-sized plastic storage container

Ziploc sandwich bags (1 per participant)

Plastic straws (2 participant)

1 bag red pipe cleaners

1 bag blue pipe cleaners

Red crepe paper long enough to fit horizontally in the sandwich bag (approximately 3 pieces per participant) OR red tissue paper cut to fit inside the sandwich bag (1 per participant)

Scotch tape (1 roll per table)

Scissors (1 per participant)

Heart Mambo Signs

1 box toothpicks

1 bag mini marshmallows

“Henry’s Heart” – Charise Mericle Harper

Computer connected to a projector with sound

Optional: 1-2 stethoscopes (you can purchase these at American Science & Surplus)

Cost: $0-50

Advanced Preparation:
-Cut up pieces of crepe paper or tissue paper to fit neatly inside Ziploc baggies for each participant.

-Rehydrate water beads at least 24 hours in advance.

-Cut small circles out of off-white foam.

-Print out the Heart Mambo Signs and arrange them on the floor.

Optional: Contact parents in advance of the program to let them know that the theme of the program involves blood and heartbeats. Just talking about blood or pulses can make some children queasy or faint, so it is probably in their best interest to not come to this particular program.

Program Outline:
1. Settling in: 5 minutes

2. Discuss what our blood does for us and the components of blood. Demonstrate the components of blood by assembling the sensory blood station as you talk about each part of our blood. Let them touch the ‘blood.’ Discuss our heart and what it does: 10 minutes (Details of discussion in Special Instructions and Procedures below)

3. Read “Henry’s Heart” – Charise Mericle Harper: 10 minutes

4. Discuss what our heartbeats sound like, but that we can’t hear it without stethoscopes in a quiet room. Instead, we can see our heartbeats. Do the Can You See Your Heart Beat project (either with marshmallows, erasers, or clay): 5 minutes

5. Watch Schoolhouse Rock “Do the Circulation” video and dance around to it. Then have them try the Can You See Your Heart Beat project again. Do they notice any differences?: 5 minutes

6. Project an image of the heart and how blood flows through it (the best one we saw can be found in this PDF from extension.missouri.edu), and explain the different areas and the path of blood flow. (Details of discussion in Special Instructions and Procedures below): 5 minutes

7. Remember those Heart Mambo Signs signs you printed out and put on the floor? Lead them in a conga line around the signs that corresponds to the flow of blood through the heart! Make sure to add in “Da da da da DA DA!” like a real conga line!: 5 minutes

8. Inflatable Heart project: 15 minutes (Details in Special Instructions and Procedures below)

Handouts: None

Special Instructions and Procedures:
Blood Component Discussion/Sensory Blood Station Assembly:
-Red Blood Cells (red water beads): Extremely tiny, but populous in our bodies–there are millions of red blood cells in a single drop of blood. Compare what red blood cells actually look like under a microscope versus the round water beads. Red blood cells carry oxygen (what we breathe) all around our bodies. We need oxygen to live.

-White Blood Cells (6 ping pong balls): We only put in a few ping pong balls because there are nowhere near as many white blood cells in our body as there are red blood cells. White blood cells protect us against germs. They do this by (essentially) ‘eating’ the germs!

-Platelets (small pieces of foam): Platelets are even tinier than our red blood cells, and there are TONS of them in our blood. Platelets help heal our wounds by forming clots, which harden into scabs. The scabs allow new skin to grow over the wound. Even though there is a finite amount of blood in our bodies, our bodies make new red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets every single day–this is why we can get many little cuts that bleed in our lifetime, but still have all the blood we need.

-Plasma (water): Blood is a liquid, and it’s a liquid because of plasma. Plasma is more than half of our blood. Plasma helps our blood cells and platelets move through our body very quickly, as well as carry nutrients, fight infections, and maintain a healthy body temperature. In our bodies, plasma is thicker and a little more yellow than water.

Other than children’s books (yes, really!), some good web resources for learning more about the components of blood are: Kids Discover, Women and Children’s Health Network, and KidsHealth.org.

What Our Heart Does:
This is what we said:
“Because we’re talking about our blood, it’s important to talk about how our blood gets around our body–which is through our heart! Our heart is all muscle and it beats constantly–about 80 times per minute. Every time our heart beats, it pushes blood through our body, which is called circulation. The blood goes around and around (circle, circulate…notice the similarity?). Children’s hearts manage to circulate ALL of the blood in their bodies three times in under 1 minute. For something that is about the size of your fist and only weighs about half a pound, that is a LOT of work.”

How Blood Flows Through the Heart:
Take a look at this excellent animated version of blood flow on About Kids Health. In fact, it might be more fun for them to look at this than the PDF drawing of a heart! There are also good explanations to help you understand the blood flow process on the Children’s Heart Institute website, The Cleveland Clinic, and How Stuff Works. Once you understand how blood flows through the heart, laying out the signs for and leading the kids through the Heart Mambo should be a relative breeze!

Inflatable Heart Project:
The specifics of how to assemble this project can be found in both Kids Activities Blog and De Tout Et De Rien. However, we made a couple modifications that worked better with a group of 24 young kids on a time crunch. 1) Instead of hot glue, we used scotch tape. Does it look as good? No. Does it matter? No.  2) Instead of coloring the inside of the bag with markers, we opted for several pieces of red crepe paper (it looks like heart muscle!). It was tough for kids to line up the crepe paper very well in the bag, so you might try a single piece of red tissue paper instead. 3) No need for special red and blue straws–regular ‘ol straws work just fine. Be sure to tell them to breathe in and out of the straws only a couple times in a row–then take a normal breath!

Resources Used:
Schoolhouse Rock (video): Do the Circulation

I Can Teach My Child: What is Blood Made Of?

Kids Activities Blog: Learn About the Heart (Simple Anatomy Craft)

De Tout Et De Rien: Inflatable Heart Craft

Science With Me: Learn About Blood

Science Matters: Body Systems: Cardiovascular Systems: Heart Mambo

Gabrielle Lavars: Can You See Your Heart Beat?

TeachEngineering.org: The Beat Goes On

Extension.Missouri.edu: Heart: See It and Hear It

Children’s Heart Institute: Blood Flow Diagram

About Kids Health: Blood Flow Through the Heart

Cleveland Clinic: How Does Blood Flow Through the Heart?

How Stuff Works: How Your Heart Works: Blood Flow

Women and Children’s Health Network: Blood – We Can’t Live Without It!

KidsHealth.org: Blood

Kids Discover: What’s in Blood? A Look at Types of Blood Cells

PBS: Amazing Heart Facts

Additional Resources:
Creekside Learning: What’s in a Drop of Blood?

Science Matters: Body Systems: Cardiovascular System: Components of Blood

Home Training Tools: Science Project: How Your Heart Pumps

Home Training Tools: Blood Compatibility Project

Learnin’ and Earnin’: Blood Type Science Experiment

Science Matters: Body Systems: Cardiovascular System: Race Your Heart

Science Matters: Body Systems: Cardiovascular System: Beat Your Heart

Science Matters: Body Systems: Respiratory System: Model Lung

Spell Out Loud: Human Body: Learning About the Heart

Teachers.net: Blood Circulation Through the Heart – Kinesthetic Activity

Make a Fake Lung: Science Sparks

What we would do differently:
Unfortunately, the Heart Mambo didn’t work so well in a relatively small space with 24 kids (by the time the leader reached the end of the mambo, kids at the end of the line were only 1/3 of the way through!). It’s a fun concept, but in our case, it would’ve been better to have the extra time to make the inflatable hearts.

Adaptation for older/younger audience:
How blood flows through the heart was probably too complicated a concept for 1st-3rd graders to fully grasp (though that doesn’t make it bad for them to hear!). So, in the future, we may swap out that portion for something like this heart chamber lacing card on Spell Out Loud, or even a modified version of something like Science Matters’ Race Your Heart project.

For older kids, we would love to do this Blood Type experiment from Learnin’ and Earnin’! They could also handle more complicated projects, like this Heart Pump from Home Training Tools, and/or the Model Lung from Science Sparks.

One thought on “Week Twenty-Three: Cardiovascular System

  1. […] Would not recommend for an even younger audience. We have done a program for 1st-3rd graders on the cardiovascular system, which has similar elements to this […]

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