We began, of course, by reviewing the previous lesson, The Great River. Students worked on their summaries and illustrations for their main lesson books.
Day One Story & Exploration
I took my story for The Circulatory System from Linda Allison's book, Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Own Insides.
The chapter is called "Heart: The Double-Barreled Pumper." I required that the older students take notes during the lesson.
We started out by reading page 49 (Internal Organic Soup - Life's Blood, Hollow Muscle, Two-Barreled Ticker), then stopped to watch the Khan Academy Video Meet the Heart (10:08). This video happens to be an excellent companion piece to the story of The Great River!
I talked with them about how the lungs and the circulatory system work hand-in-hand and, although we study them separately so that they can focus on the parts of each, they should never forget how intertwined they are.
Without the lungs providing oxygen, the flow of the blood would be pretty worthless to the cells. The waste would pile up and there would be no new oxygen or nutrients coming to the cells. When someone is drowning, for example, the heart is still beating but it's not bringing any new oxygen to the cells. After a while, the cells will begin to die.
The Great River story tells us that the Circulatory System is like the Department of Transportation. There is a capillary within a hair's width of every single cell in the body, just like there is a road or driveway to every single house. The Department of Transportation does a combination of jobs including taking away the cell's carbon dioxide waste (this is just like the trash man coming by) as well as delivering supplies the cells need (like a daily newspaper delivery). The lungs work to breathe the carbon dioxide waste out and then bring in new oxygen... and with every beat of the heart, the Circulatory System is delivering supplies to every cell in the entire body and then taking away their waste. It's pretty incredible to think about!
We did the Tennis Ball Squeeze activity on page 50. I purchased one tennis ball per child (and I let them take the tennis ball home so they could show this demonstration to their parents). I demonstrated how a blood pressure cuff is used, then read page 50 (Listen In). I passed around the stethoscope so they could each hear their own heart beating.
We read page 51 (Heart Sounds, Murmur) and page 52 (Bloodways), then stopped so that I could color in page 113 of The Body Book: Easy-to-Make Hands-on Models That Teach with them watching me. You will need a red and a blue colored pencil. It's WAY more dramatic to color this with students watching than to have colored it in advance. I chose to do this so that they could see it "live" and because it's not an easy enough of a diagram that I wanted them trying to do it independently. It's a bit nerve-wracking to have everyone watching you but it went really well and they were very interested in seeing the path of the blood as it travels. Stop every once in a while as you color and ask them if you're moving towards the heart or away from it, and how they know.
I showed them the Heart Dissection diagram on page 53 and let them know that I would be working with the butcher to try to bring in animal parts for us to dissect.
We did the Under Your Tongue activity on page 54 and I let them go in groups of three to the bathroom to look in the mirrors.
I showed them how to take their pulse and we did the Matchstick Pulse Meter activity on page 55. This is an easy activity which only takes a small lump of clay and a wooden match.
We read pages 56 and 57 and then I read them the Amazing Facts on page 58. Then I let them go outside and run around the house three times!
The children were very excited by the lesson; in fact, several of the younger ones spontaneously went to get papaer and started drawing diagrams of the heart purely out of their own interest. They kept drawing even when we had moved on to doing our read aloud story. The older students all came up to me and told me that this was much more interesting than any lesson they had previously had on the human body, which made me very happy!
Day Two Review & Exploration
We reviewed the parts and function of the circulatory system by looking at the nomenclature three-part cards from ETC Montessori. I laid out and matched the pictures and definitions, and passed out the vocabulary cards to the group. As I showed each picture and read each definition, the child who had that vocabulary term came forward.
We also looked at a transparency of the anatomy of an artery versus a vein (from the media & supplements sampler to a college textbook Life: The Science of Biology, 7th Edition). We noted the differences (veins have valves and arteries do not, arteries have extra elastic in their walls and veins do not) and reviewed why these differences were necessary. Arteries have to withstand the pressure of the strong push from the heart. The blood in veins travels more slowly and needs a valve to prevent it from flowing backwards.
We also looked at The Circulatory System page in our atlas of the human body, the Wall Chart of Human Anatomy.
Main Lesson Book
Students began to draft their summaries and illustrations for The Circulatory Sytem.
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