Human Heart Extension Activities: Practical Teaching Activities for Elementary Science Class

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Set the Scene

Obviously your elementary students will need some basic knowledge prior to diving into this lesson series on human heart extension activities. Here’s the basics you will need to start them off:

  • The human heart has four chambers - the top two are called the atriums and the bottom two are called the ventricles.
  • The heart is responsible for pumping blood all around the body - from your brain right down to your little toes!
  • The heart sends oxygenated blood out to the body, and de-oxygenated blood (the blood that needs to receive another load of oxygen to help the body and its working muscles function properly) off to the lungs.
  • The human heart is in the left hand side of your chest, safely tucked away behind your rib cage for protection.
  • You can feel your heart beat in several places in your body - your chest, your wrist, and your neck (be careful getting kids to measure this last one - ensure they only measure on one side at a time and that they are very gentle).

Find the Beat at Rest

In the first part of this lesson series on human heart extension activities, go for gaining an understanding of resting heart rate. Get your students to keep a basic diary, calendar or journal where they record their resting heart rate for each day in a week. Here’s a neat math link:

  • Ask students to count the beat for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get their beats per minute. After a week, have students create a table and graph of their own resting heart rates.
  • Discuss what might make the human heart beat at different rates on different days, and why it is lower at rest than during activity.
  • Remember, kids at this age love practical games or discovery focussed learning, so get them out and doing as part of their learning in science as much as possible!

Find the Beat During Activity

The next phase of this science lesson series is to find the beat during activity. You can spread this phase out over a few sport or Physical Education sessions, or add in an extra activity session during the week in your science session. Here’s what to do:

Assign different groups of students the task of investigating what happens to the human heart rate when the body is performing different sorts of work tasks. These could include:

  • Group 1: Doing ten minutes of slow jogging around a sports field.
  • Group 2: Doing some heavy muscle work such as push ups, dips, wall push ups or half sit ups, or doing some isometric exercises with a partner providing the resistance.
  • Group 3: Doing some fitball (Swiss ball) exercises.
  • Group 4: Doing a 20 minute walk - for a bit of fun, try adding a pedometer as a science tool for measuring foot steps at the same time!
  • Group 5: Doing a ‘sit and chat’ session involving, well, sitting and chatting!

Have students make predictions for their group’s heart rate range, and ask them to estimate how much their working heart rate will vary from their resting one.

Math and science link so well together, here are a few more gems to weave into your series on human heart extension activities:

  • Graph the results of resting versus working heart rates for each of the five groups.
  • Practise making predictions for each group before asking the group members to reveal their results.
  • Create a ‘predictions’ versus ‘actual’ chart to show how close the estimates for working heart rate were.
  • Develop a formula for measuring resting and working heart rates using different measuring periods (10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds etc).

About the Author

Anne Vize is the author of ‘This is Your Life: Making Healthy Choices (Lower, Middle and Upper Primary)’. These books are fun, practical and activity focussed teacher resource books designed to support the health and physical education curriculum areas of primary (elementary) teaching. They are published by Curriuclum Corporation for $34.94 AUD each. Anne is also a qualified Physical Education and Special Education teacher.