I Heart Science (Nov. 17)

Today’s activity was a pig heart dissection. First, we used a diagram on the overhead screen to review blood circulation in the human body.  After jogging their memories in regards to atria, ventricles, and valves, we handed out the hearts and scalpels. We began the dissection by having the students determine which side was the front and which side was the back. Most of the groups did a good job reasoning out which side was the front and came to the correct conclusion. We identified the Superior Vena Cava, Pulmonary Veins and Arteries, and the Aorta as a class. Next, the students cut their heart in half and we identified the atria and ventricles. Then, they poked around in the valves and tried to figure out which structures they connect. We also explored the structural difference between the bicuspid/tricuspid valves and the semilunar valves. I showed the students that the left ventricle has a thicker wall than the right and asked why this might be.  After talking about where the blood goes after leaving each ventricle they came to the conclusion that the heart works harder to send blood to the body then it does to send blood to the lungs (which is indeed correct.) Once again the students had some time to do their own exploration after we finished the group review. I think the dissections went well. The students were interested in trying to match the structures on the diagram with the actual structures on the heart. They also seemed intrigued by the way the valves look and function. I think that it helped them trace the flow of blood in our bodies, but it was hard to tell if it will help them when it comes to test time or not. Ordinarily I think it would help, but I know they covered circulation several times (and several different ways) and they were still having a little bit of trouble during the dissections. I suppose covering it again in another form can’t hurt! Even if they don’t remember the names of everything, or even exactly how blood moves through the heart, I’m sure they will remember what the heart looked like inside. Surely that makes the dissections worth it, right?

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About Sarah Schmidt

I am a PhD candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas. I study prairie rivers and I am especially interested in algal communities and using lipids to explore food webs.
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