Friday, October 24, 2014

Circulatory System Fun!

This week we had a blast exploring the circulatory system!  We all dressed up as "medical professionals" (I joined in this week since all I had to do was pull out a pair of my old scrubs - so don't expect any other week to see me...haha!) - I loved the pharmaceutical sales girl with her briefcase.  There has to be at least one in every gathering of medical professionals, don't you think?

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After we completed our lapbooking, then we began our exploration of the circulatory system.  We started out with making some "edible" blood.  I had four different 3x5 cards where I had written down what each part of the blood (basic for the kids), we would be talking about and what it's main "function" was.  In front of each card was a different food.  We had strawberry slices for the red blood cells (oxygen transport), banana slices for the white blood cells (fight infection), chopped up grapes for the platelets (stop bleeding) and yogurt for the plasma (mostly water -transportation of nutrients, hormones and proteins).   The kids mixed and recited the purposes of each component and then ate them!
We then moved into talking about blood types and their compatibility.  I set up their experiment using food coloring, water and cups - this experiment I had found over at  The kids worked in teams of two and each were given a sheet to record their results.  Based on whether the water turned a different color or not, they learned which blood type was the universal donor and which was a universal receiver.  They also found out which blood types can receive from one another.
Since we were on the topic of blood -we then moved into a demonstration on how platelets work, while we made our own "scab".  I think it would have come out better if we had used clear or white tissue paper, but the kids got the point.  I got this experiment out of the book I have recommended before and have used quite a bit this year, called: Head to Toe Science: Over 40 Eye-Popping, Spine-Tingling, Heart-Pounding Activities That Teach Kids about the Human Body and it is under $10!  
We then started to discuss how all this blood was able to move around the body.  We introduced the idea of our heart, veins, arteries and capillaries.  We then did an activity to have the kids listen to one another's heart beats.  It was very simple - we just needed a paper towel roll!  That's it!  We had the kids get up and do some exercises to increase their heartbeat speed and listen again.  We also felt for our pulses on the radial, brachial and carotid artery locations and using a stopwatch on my phone, they all calculated their heartbeats per minute.
We had our first experiment fail this week (it happens) - we tried to see if our heartbeat could be seen moving a small piece of model magic and a toothpick up and down.  We tried it different ways and two of the volunteer Mommies did some burpees to increase their heartbeats for us to try it on and still it was unable to be seen.  We decided everyone should take it home and try it on their Daddy's (who have more prominent veins, presumably)!  
We then discussed how the pump in our body (our heart) needed to have a way for the blood to flow in a direction without it going back the incorrect way in between pumps - introducing the concept of valves.  So we made a simple pump/valve system our of a jar, balloon we cut, toothpick (to prick the holes) and two straws.  The kids tried it out to see if their valve worked at stopping the water from flowing back into the straw in between "pumps".  It did!  Easy and fun experiment for the kids to do.
Since we were on a discussion about valves and veins...we made a working "vein" out of a turkey baster, Rocket Balloons and some water.   The kids put their balloon on the end of the turkey baster and then removed the cap to pour some water in.  Recapping the baster and putting their partners'  hand on the balloon, they then could then pump the bulb of the baster and their partner would feel the water pulsing up and down the balloon with each pump, just like we can feel when our heart is pumping blood throughout our body when we place our hands on an artery/vein. 
Last, but definitely not least, was the "dissection" of a cows heart!  The kids loved this!  I went to my local butcher and asked for a heart and they happen to have one in the back and it was a very large, cow's heart.  Perfect!  So, we started out by discussing how to conduct our hands in "surgery" - there was the hands up in "ready" position, then hands in surgery (keeping them confined to the heart or table) and then hands up in the "finished" position standing up and waiting for an adult to escort them to remove their gloves.  I learned from our previous week dissecting into the marrow of a cow's bone that this was pertinent instructions for young ones, because otherwise they touch everything from their chair to the table to their hair - with their hands covered in cows blood, not realizing the germ potential for sickness :(- LOL!  So if you do something like this at home, remember to practice proper hand positions and talk about the germs/sickness potential, before you bring out your specimen!

This heart was large and very easy for the kids to see the aorta, vena cava, fat, cardiac muscle, and fantastic chordae tendinae (where the word "heart strings" comes from).   I kept it very basic and let the kids explore after I pointed out these cool features.  I am more so interested in sparking their interest in everything science and keeping it simple and fun for their ages, then I am looking to give them lots of information to remember.  I find you begin to lose their interest if you give them too much information.  I'm just hoping Wonderful Wednesdays' cultivates an interest and love of science in each of them!  
To end our day of fun, we had our themed snack and played the review game.  This week's themed snack was a mom's food circulatory system creation.  She used popcorn shaped into a "lung" and then blueberries to be the veins and grapes to be the arteries and red peppers to be the heart (if I remember right!).  The kids then were given the supplies and told to make their own circulatory systems and then eat them!  It was a clever idea.  We certainly have some very talented Moms in this group!  While they munched on their creations, I played a video cartoon that explained all the things we touched on today.
All together, it was a Wonderful Wednesday full of exploration, a minor failure and lots of fun!  

If you are looking for more anatomy based science activities and models, then stop by and see these previous Wonderful Wednesdays:

5 Senses
Digestive System

Excretory System


  1. Looks like everyone had a great time!

  2. Can you share the name of the video cartoon you played for the group?

    1. Thank you for stopping by. Here you go Blessings, Colleen

  3. I am a former high school Biology teacher that has been homeschooling my own children for 12 years now. I am teaching middle school anatomy at our co-op, so your website is SUPER helpful!! Can I get the directions for the valve activity? Thanks!