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Circulatory System Lesson

Updated on March 10, 2015
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This is part 5 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Walk through your circulatory system, create a blood model and fake movie blood, measure your heart rate, dissect a heart, and more! These lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. They were written by another creative mom for our weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 33 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after school program, camp, or co-op!

Studying their veins by looking at their wrists and hands
Studying their veins by looking at their wrists and hands

Introduction & Blood Vessels

1. Pray. Read & discuss Psalm 51: 10, 17.

2. Review systems of the body. Introduce circulatory system.

3. Ask children to name to name the parts of the body that are involved in pumping blood. Can they see those parts without cutting open their bodies? Yes! Have children look at each others' eyes to see capillaries (easily seen in blood-shot eyes), or they can look at their own if they have mirrors. Have them see the capillaries in their own eyelids by closing their eyes and then looking at a bright light. Blood flows from capillaries to veins. Children can see their veins by looking at their wrists and hands. The blue lines are their veins with blood returning to the lungs. Why is it blue? Because its depleted its supply of oxygen. The blood isn't actually blue. It is dark red. The dark red color looks blue under our skin. After the blood has returned to the heart and lungs to get more oxygen, it goes throughout the body in the arteries. The blood is bright red/ Children can see their arteries under their tongues. Have them look at the tongue of a neighbor or look at their own tongues using compact mirrors. The red lines are arteries. What else can they see? They should also be able to see blue lines which are veins and thin, red lines which are capillaries.

YOU WILL NEED: mirrors (such as compact mirrors) (optional)

Red blood cell (erythrocyte), platelet, and white blood cell (leukocyte)
Red blood cell (erythrocyte), platelet, and white blood cell (leukocyte) | Source

Blood: Plasma, Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, & Platelets

4. Blood has both liquid & solid particles. The liquid in the blood is called plasma and makes up 55% of your body's blood. The remaining 45% of your blood is made of solids: red blood cells, white blood cells, & platelets. 44% of your blood consists of red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin that help them carry oxygen (o2) to the cells. Hemoglobin is rich in iron, which attracts oxygen. Because red blood cells need to carry lots and lots of hemoglobin, they do not have nuclei or mitochondria. They only live for about 4 months but are continuously reproduced in the bone marrow. Red blood cells also carry carbon dioxide (co2) out of the body through the lungs. 0.5% of your blood are white blood cells, which are the army of our body's defense system against germs. 0.5% of your blood are platelets, which are tiny fragments of cells. When we scrape or cut ourselves, platelets cause threadlike fiber called fibrin to form at the site of the wound forming a blood clot.

Blood model made using corn syrup, red Fruit Loops, a cotton ball, and crumbs from a purple Fruit Loop
Blood model made using corn syrup, red Fruit Loops, a cotton ball, and crumbs from a purple Fruit Loop

Option 1: Most Realistic Looking Blood Model

5A. To make a model that looks a bit more like blood than the below two models, pour 1/2 cup of corn syrup into a clear plastic cup (or use a jar with a lid if you want the children to keep it). This will be the plasma. Add a scant 1/2 cup of red Fruit Loops for the red blood cells. If you are doing this for a large group, you could instead use Cheerios dyed red. Add 1 cotton ball for the white blood cell. Add a sprinkle of Fruit Loop crumbs for the platelets.

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 1 clear plastic cup or jar, 1 plastic spoon, 1/2 cup of corn syrup,scant 1/2 cup of red Fruit Loops or Cheerios dyed red, 1 cotton ball, and a sprinkle of Fruit Loop or Cheerio crumbs

Edible Blood Model
Edible Blood Model

Option 2: Edible Components of Blood Model

5B. Use the directions from http://highhillhomeschool.blogspot.de to create an edible version of blood. Each child will have 3/4 cup of yogurt (which will represent the plasma), 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries (which will represent the red blood cells), 2 grapes (which will represent the lymphocyte white blood cells), 2 pieces of chopped apple (which will represent the neutraphil white blood cells), and 4 small cubes of banana (which will represent the platelets). Review what each part of their blood fruit salad represents and then allow the children to eat their “blood.”

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 1 disposable bowls, 1 small plate, 1 plastic spoon, 3/4 cups of vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup of diced strawberries, 2 green grapes, 2 pieces of chopped apple (about the size of a grape), & 4 bananas (finely diced)

Option 3: Craft Project Blood Model

5C. Give each child a plate and have them pour Elmer's glue over the plate. The glue represents plasma, the liquid part of your blood. Then have the children dump 1 handful of red sequins (approximately 500 pieces) over the glue. These are your red blood cells. Add 1 white pompom. This represent your white blood cell. For every 600 red blood cells, there is about 1 white blood cell. White blood cells are slightly larger than your red blood cells. Add a pinch of purple sequins (approximately 25 pieces). These represent your platelets. Ask the children what color they think of when they think of blood. Can they now see why they think it looks red? When the hemoglobin in the red blood cells combines with oxygen, it gives the blood its red color.

YOU WILL NEED: (per child) a disposable plate, 1/2 bottle of Elmer's glue, a handful of red sequins, 1small white pompom, & 1 pinch of purple sequins

(Note for the budget-conscious: Glitter can be used in lieu of the sequins to reduce the cost of this project, though sequins don't have the disk shape of sequins which emphasizes the disk shape of red blood cells. You'd used about 2 spoonfuls of glitter and a couple shakes of purple glitter.)

Five Types of White Blood Cells

My Bats Emit Loud Noises = Monocytes, Basophils, Eosinophils, Lymphocytes, & Neutrophils

Stuffed Animal Blood Bank
Stuffed Animal Blood Bank

Blood Types: Stuffed Animal Blood Bank

6. (Prep: Ahead of time place a piece of masking tape or small sticker on each stuffed animal. On 1/4 of the pieces of masking tape write A. On 1/4 write B. On 1/4 write AB. On 1/4 write O. Next to each stuffed animal place a small sheet of paper that has the blood type of the stuffed animal written on it.)
-Ask, "Have any of you seen blood bank mobiles where people can go to donate blood?" Tell the children that for many years if someone lost a lot of blood, that meant they were going to die. In the 1940’s Dr. Charles Richard Drew developed a way to store blood from donors so that it could be used to help people who were bleeding so much that their bodies could not produce enough blood to replace the lost blood. Dr. Drew contributed greatly to the medical field, but he faced racial discrimination because he had dark skin. In those days some of the doctors thought that if you had light skin, your blood should not be mixed with the blood from someone who has dark skin and vice versa. Ironically, Dr. Drew later got in a bad car accident and needed a blood transfusion to save his life. Because the doctors had wrong beliefs about blood, he was not able to get the blood he needed to survive.
-Today we know that skin color has nothing to do with blood type. Different people have different blood types, but it is a chemical in their red blood cells called antigens that causes them to have different blood types. Each blood type has a different chemical antigen marker. There are four main types are A (carries A antigen), B (carries B antigen), AB (carries both antigens), and O (carries neither antigen).
-Briefly discuss blood transfusions, donations, and compatibility. Mention that in an emergency, however, people with O blood type can give blood to any other group and therefore is called a universal donor. Type AB can receive any type of blood and is called a universal recipient.
-Lead the children in doing this activity: http://highhillhomeschool.blogspot.de/. Tell the children to get their stuffed animal and the sheet of paper that says the blood type of their stuffed animal.
-First you are going to hold a blood drive. Ask if anyone would like for their stuffed animal to donate. If they want them to donate, stick it with a pin and take the sheet of paper from them. each sheet of paper will represent available blood in the the blood bank.
-Tell them that the animals now get to play by having the children toss around the animals to each other. If an animal touches the ground, it will need a blood transfusion because of its injury. The animal's owner will need to line up at the blood bank and choose what type of blood to give the injured animals. If the necessary type of blood is not available or if they chose the wrong blood type, their animal will die. Eventually many of the stuffed animals will die. Ask for ideas on what could be done. Suggest another blood drive. If time allows, revive the animals, hold another blood drive, and play again.
-Quickly review what they have learned about blood types and transfusions.

YOU WILL NEED: masking tape or stickers that can be written on, a marker, 6 sewing needles or pins, a small square of paper for each child (On 1/4 of them write A. On 1/4 of them write B. On 1/4 of them write AB. On 1/4 of them write O.), and a stuffed animal for each child

Bed sheet with the circulatory system drawn on it so children can walk through the system and name the parts.  (A chalk drawing on a driveway would also work.)
Bed sheet with the circulatory system drawn on it so children can walk through the system and name the parts. (A chalk drawing on a driveway would also work.) | Source

Traveling Through the Circulatory System

7. Have children pretend to be blood cells & travel through the circulatory system. Have children travel in pairs while the rest of the children watch. The children should name where they are. Give each child a red construction paper circle (i.e. red blood cell). One child will be a blood cell in the superior vena cava and will walk around the top of the sheet as the superior vena cava allows blood to travel through the upper part of the body & head. The other child will be a blood cell in the inferior vena cava and will walk along around the bottom of the sheet as the inferior vena cava carries to & delivers from the lower part of the body. Both "blood cells" will deplete their oxygen supplies as they travel through the body. Have them hand in the red construction paper circles. Give them blue construction paper circles as blood without oxygen looks blue. Also hand them each a sheet of paper that says co2 as they pick up carbon dioxide as they travel through the body.

Have the children step onto each part on the bed sheet diagram as you all name them. They will both enter the heart in the the right atrium. The right atrium contracts and the tricuspid valve opens allowing blood to be pushed into the right ventricle. The right ventricle contracts and the blood is then pushed to the lungs through the pulmonic valve and artery. Once in the lung, the children (red blood cells) will drops off the co2 paper and pick up the red construction paper circles that have o2 written on them as the blood cells drop off carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen in the lungs. They will then return to the heart through the pulmonary veins into the left atrium. The left atrium contracts opening the mitral valve allowing the blood to pass into the left ventricle. The ventricle then contracts to push the blood through the aortic valve out the aorta to the rest of the body.

YOU WILL NEED: circulatory system drawn onto a bed sheet, large sheet of paper, or on the driveway/sidewalk; 4 red construction paper circles with o2 written on them, 2 blue construction paper circles, & pieces of paper that say co2

TRIcuspid valve is in The Right Inside part of the heart.

MitraL is on Left side.

(TRI in Tricuspid = The Right Inside. L in Mitral = Left.)

Edible model of a heart (the favorite activity of the day)
Edible model of a heart (the favorite activity of the day)

8. Lead children in making an edible heart model using 4 graham cracker squares (representing the atria and ventricles), 6 large marshmallows (representing pulmonary artery, aorta, and the vena cava), 20 miniature marshmallows (representing the pulmonary veins), one generous spoonful of blue frosting, one generous spoonful of pink/red frosting, one knife, and 7 toothpicks (to hold the marshmallows together). You can follow the model at http://adventuresinmommydom.org/ . After children have finished making their models, review each part of it. This activity originally came from Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology by Jeannie K. Fulbright.

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 2 whole graham cracker rectangles (or 4 squares), 6 large marshmallows, 20 miniature marshmallows, a generous scoop of vanilla frosting with red food dye in it to make it pink (or red), a generous scoop of blue frosting with blue food dye in it to make it blue, a large disposable plate, a plastic knife, a napkin, 7 toothpicks, and hand wipes (optional) (*2 containers of frosting, one pink and one blue, is enough for 10 children.)

9. (Optional) Review the parts of the heart using the diagram from Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries: The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body. Show children photographs of the parts of the circulatory system in "Photographic Atlas of the Body" by Arran Frood.

Photographic Atlas of the Body
Photographic Atlas of the Body

We used this book the entire time we were studying human anatomy. It contains gorgeous photographs of various parts of the human body as shown under a variety of extremely powerful microscopes and MRI's.

 
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)

We used this Christian textbook quite frequently throughout this unit. The author does a wonderful job of describing the complex aspects of the various parts of our bodies in a manner that is easily understood by children. Activities, such as the edible heart model, are included at the end of each chapter.

 
Blood Pressure & Heart Pumping Blood Model
Blood Pressure & Heart Pumping Blood Model | Source

Blood Pressure & Heart Pumping Blood Model

10. If you are not limited by time, ask if anyone has ever had their blood pressure taken. Briefly mention that your blood pressure measures how quickly the blood rushes through your blood vessels since blood cells put pressure against to the walls of blood vessels as they pass through.

11a. If you are not limited by time, create a pumping heart model. Option 1: Let children pump "blood" using a pre-made heart model. They can take turns squeezing the bottles to "pump blood" to demonstrate the blood under pressure when the heart beats.

YOU WILL NEED: a heart pump model by following the directions at www.ehow.com. (We used disposable water bottles with thin plastic as they were easier to squeeze and used a drill to make the holes.)

11b. Option 2: Use a meat baster or pipette and a bowl of water dyed red to show how your heart takes in blood and pumps it throughout your body. The ball at the end of the meat baster represents your heart. The tube of the meat baster represents your artery. Let the children fill the meat basters with the red water and then squeeze the water out. Squeezing the ball at the top shows what happens when their hearts does contracts: blood (water) squirts out.

YOU WILL NEED: meat basters or pipettes and bowls of water that have a few drops of red food dye to make the water red

Listening to someone else's heartbeat
Listening to someone else's heartbeat

Listening to a Heart Beating

12. Explain how the doctor listens to our heart for healthy sounds of lub dub, lub dub. If you have a stethoscope, you can let the children use it to listen to their own hearts. Otherwise, have children use a cardboard tube or rolled up sheet of paper to listen to a partner's heartbeat.

YOU WILL NEED: stethoscope (optional) &/or cardboard tubes or rolled up sheets of paper.

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope, Black
Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope, Black

This is a reasonably priced stethoscope that your children will enjoy using again and again to listen to their own hearts beating. It works quite well.

 
Feeling your pulse
Feeling your pulse

Heart Rates

13. Discuss heart rates. Have children find their pulses either on their wrists or under their necks. Have them take their pulse for 30 seconds and then double the number. Tell them that this is their resting heart rate. Have them do 15 jumping jacks and then run in place as fast as they can for 15 seconds. Have them take their pulse again for 30 seconds and then double the number. What happened? Why?

Great Picture Books on the Circulatory System

The Circulatory Story
The Circulatory Story

This was my favorite book on the circulatory system. My 3, 5, and 9 year olds enjoyed the illustrations. Of all the children's picture books, this one provides the most information without losing the interest of my kids.

 
A Drop of Blood (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
A Drop of Blood (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

This is also a great picture book on how blood flows through your body and how it functions. It includes what white and red blood cells do, platelet plugs, how fibrin clots and retracts, and more.

 
Our heart dissection
Our heart dissection

Dissect a Heart

14. Dissect a heart. We used a heart cut from a deer from someone who hunts. You can also get one from a butcher or purchase one on-line from hometrainingtools.com. If you're getting a fresh heart, you can freeze it. They thaw out nicely. It is very similar to a beef steak! Watch the below YouTube clips to get an idea of what to say. We placed the heart on a hard plastic disposable plate and used an eyebrow trimmer as our scalpel. Make sure everyone who touches it wears at least 1 latex glove. Be sure to show the 2 atria or auricles, top chambers, the ventricles' bottom two chambers, inferior vena cava, aorta, pulmonary artery and vein. The heart muscle is a special muscle type made of cardiac muscle tissue. Its specific name is myocardium. It is different from skeletal, striated muscle, nor is it like smooth, involuntary muscle although it is involuntary. Show the septum that divides the heart into the left and right. Depending on visibility, the bicuspid valve between the left atria and ventricle, the tricuspid valve on the right side, and the aortic valve might be seen. Let children hold the heart and put their fingers through the chambers.

YOU WILL NEED: heart, hard plastic disposable plate, paring knife (from the Dollar Tree), latex gloves, & disinfectant wipes

15. Review what you learned today.

Want to Avoid Doing a Dissection?

Want to Avoid Doing a Dissection? - Use this interactive heart model instead!

Edu-Toys  3D DIY Heart Anatomy With CD
Edu-Toys 3D DIY Heart Anatomy With CD

Do you want to avoid doing a real dissection? Use this interactive heart model instead! It comes with 31 removable pieces and an interactive CD.

 

More of Our Favorite Books on the Circulatory System

Good chapter books that focus on the history of man's knowledge of the circulatory system include "William Harvey: Discoverer of How Blood Circulates" by Lisa Yount and "The Circulatory System" by Tom McGowen.

Hear Your Heart (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
Hear Your Heart (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

Even my 2 year old enjoyed sitting through this one, and it was educational enough for my 9 year old. You will learn that the hearts of smaller people and animals beat more times per minute. It also includes the parts of your heart, veins, and arteries.

 
Your Body Battles a Skinned Knee
Your Body Battles a Skinned Knee

This is a fabulous series that presents your body's cells as superheros. Even my 4 year old nephew didn't want to put this book down. It still presents lots of factual information in an exciting and memorable manner.

 

Joke: What did the oxygen atom say to the iron atom in the hemoglobin?

I find you very attractive!

Material List for This Lesson

ITEMS TO BE BROUGHT BY FAMILIES FOR EACH OF THEIR CHILDREN:
-mirror (such as a compact mirror)
-a stuffed animal (not a favorite one as we will be tossing them around)
-paper towel tube or piece of sturdy paper rolled up and taped to be about that size (1 for every 2 children) (It will be used to listen to someone’s heartbeat.)

ITEMS TO BE BROUGHT TO BE USED WITH THE ENTIRE CLASS:
-Materials for Edible Blood Model
-Masking tape or stickers that can be written on, a marker, 6 sewing needles or pins, a small square of paper for each child (On 1/4 of them write A. On 1/4 of them write B. On 1/4 of them write AB. On 1/4 of them write O.)
-Circulatory system drawn onto a bed sheet, large sheet of paper, or on the driveway/sidewalk; 4 red construction paper circles with o2 written on them, 2 blue construction paper circles, & pieces of paper that say co2
-PER CHILD: 2 whole graham cracker rectangles (or 4 squares), 6 large marshmallows, 20 miniature marshmallows, a generous scoop of vanilla frosting with red food dye in it to make it pink (or red), a generous scoop of blue frosting with blue food dye in it to make it blue, a large disposable plate, a plastic knife, a napkin, 7 toothpicks, and hand wipes (optional) (*2 containers of frosting, one pink and one blue, is enough for 10 children.)
-(Optional) "Photographic Atlas of the Body" by Arran Frood
-(Optional) stethoscope
-heart, hard plastic disposable plate, paring knife (from the Dollar Tree), latex gloves, & disinfectant wipes

Bill Nye on the Circulatory System - My children love watching these!

More Fun YouTube Clips - School House Rock's Do the Circulation and Pump Your Blood Song

Ready for the next lesson?

Create edible DNA models, made models of the insides of bones, dissect deer organs, create a working model of the respiratory system, play immune system freeze tag, and more in this fun 7-8 lesson unit on human anatomy! (An optional lesson on genetics and DNA is included.)

  • Cells and DNA Lesson - This is part 1 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create edible models of human cells and DNA, look at cheek cells under a microscope, and more!
  • Genetics Lesson – This is an optional but very worthwhile lesson for the Human Anatomy Unit Study. Use M&M's to determine genetic traits, extract DNA from a strawberry using normal household materials, create edible DNA strands using marshmallows and licorice, design dog breeds as you select alleles, and more in this fun lesson on Genetics!
  • Skeletal and Muscular Systems Lesson - This is part 2 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create models of bone parts, use stickers to label the bones on your body, dissect soup bones, measure the range of motion of your joints, and more!
  • Nervous System Lesson - This is part 3 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create a clay model of the brain, twist together a pipe cleaner neuron, train your reflexes, dissect a deer brain and a cow eyeball (optional), and more!
  • Digestive System Lesson - This is part 4 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Demonstrate how each part of the digestive system works using crackers, pantyhose, create teeth molds, prepare and eat a salad while discussing healthy eating habits, and more!
  • Circulatory System Lesson - This is part 5 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Walk through your circulatory system, create a blood model and fake movie blood, measure your heart rate, dissect a heart, and more!
  • Respiratory System Lesson - This is part 6 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create a lung model, measure lung capacity, dissect a lung, play a respiratory relay race, and more!
  • Immune System Lesson - This is part 7 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Play immune system freeze tag, watch how germs spread, observe bacteria under a microscope, and more!
  • Human Body Unit Study Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating activity for the 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Children presented game show themed games related to the human body or other creative presentations, and we had a systems-of-the-human-body-themed meal. Recipes are included! Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.

Where was the first heart transplant performed?

In 1967 Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first human heart transplant on Lewis Washkansky (age 53) in Cape Town, South Africa.

What do you think of first when you think of the heart?

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© 2012 iijuan12

Comments, Questions, or Ideas? - Please leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!

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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @KimGiancaterino: Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment! The heart models are amazing.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      What an excellent lesson plan for learning about the circulatory system. Our cardiologist keeps one of those heart models on his desk. It's pretty fascinating!