Circulation Education

Grade 7 Life Science students design, build representations of the human circulatory system.

In Kristen Householder’s grade 7 Life Science class, students took a hands-on approach to learning about the circulatory system that involved more than coloring in a diagram.

After a field trip to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in downtown Richmond last month, the class continued their study of human systems by focusing on the movement of blood throughout the body. Ms. Householder instructed students to choose whether they wanted to be an artist, engineer, or programmer for the project. Each group then had to research, design, and build a model that accomplished a set of assigned tasks.

The engineers were asked to design a life-size model of the circulatory system that had to incorporate a realistic “pump” to act as the heart as well as “moving blood” (colored water) that moved to the major areas of the body. The artists were asked to use papier-mâché to create a large, anatomically correct model of the heart with all parts correctly labeled. The programmers were asked to design a digital program that shows the order of events in how the heart contracts and pumps blood throughout the body using either lights and LEDs, Scratch programming and Makey-Makeys, Minecraft, or Pyonkee.

“I think the project was fun and hands-on because we got the chance to build things,” said seventh grader Ethan Reed. “It helped us get a better sense of how the circulatory system really works.”

Ms. Householder said placing students into different “job” groups proved beneficial because some students signed up for a job that they weren’t familiar with. This required the students to think critically and engage in problem solving to accomplish a challenging task. Afterwards, Ms. Householder talked to the students about obstacles they overcame and how they might have improved their projects.

She also added that, by completing the project, all students came away with a new understanding of how the circulatory system works. For example, several students told her that they were amazed at the fact that all blood is contained inside closed tubes in the body.

“That was really a lightning moment for them, and I thought it was just so intuitive,” Ms. Householder said. “The students really embraced the project and came away from it with a new perspective.”


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