The human heart is one of the most fascinating subjects in biology. After all, we are all kept alive by our hearts, so understanding how they work is really important.
Although the heart is just one organ, it is made up of various parts that work together to help it pump blood around the body.
This STEM Saturday, (see also: A-Z STEM Saturday, B Is For Building Bridges)we’ll be providing a basic introduction to the human heart, including its role in the body and its anatomy. Plus, we have some fun activities you can do with your kids (see also: Nature & Tradition: 54 Fun Facts About Autumn For Kids)to help them understand the human heart better.
What Is The Human Heart?
Most of us think about the human heart as an organ, and while that’s true, it’s also important to remember that the human heart is a muscle. This muscle acts like a pump, and its main role is to push oxygenated blood around the body.
You may have heard that the human heart is on the left side of your chest, but actually, it’s more towards the center.
While it is slightly to the left, if you put your hand in the middle of your chest, you will be able to feel your heartbeat more clearly than if you put your hand on the left side.
The human heart fills up with blood and then contracts (this means it squeezes, like a fist) so that the blood moves along. Then it does this again, and again.
As well as pushing the oxygen in your blood around your body, your heart also helps the nutrients in your blood to get around, while taking any waste products away.
The Anatomy Of The Human Heart
The human heart (see also: STEM Saturday: Free Printable Human Heart Fact Valentines)can generally be divided into two sides: the right and the left. The two sides of the heart are separated by a wall of thick muscle. This is called the septum.
Remember that the right side is where the blood from your body enters the heart, and is then taken to the lungs. Meanwhile, the left side takes the blood coming from the lungs, and pumps it around the rest of your body.
The blood going to the body is filled with oxygen that the body stores in its cells. As the blood passes through the body in blood vessels called arteries, it also picks up carbon dioxide that the cells produce when they use up the oxygen.
When the blood gets back to the heart through blood vessels called veins, it gets sent to the lungs, where the carbon dioxide is removed as we breathe out. As we breathe in, the oxygen is replenished, and the cycle continues!
You also need to look at the human heart from the top and the bottom. There are two chambers at the top of the heart called the atria, and two chambers at the bottom called the ventricles. You have a left and right atrium, as well as a left and right ventricle.
The atria are responsible for receiving the body coming back to the heart from both the lungs and the body. Meanwhile, the ventricles return that blood to the lungs and body.
The ventricles and atria in the human heart use teamwork to get the blood in your body where it needs to go. When the atria receive blood from the body and lungs, they pass it on to the ventricles through valves called the tricuspid valve and the mitral valve.
The ventricles contract to push the blood out of the heart, back to the lungs and body. To get out of the heart, the blood travels through the pulmonary and aortic valves. At the same time, the atria are filling up again, so the whole process can be repeated.
Human Heart Science Activities
The best way to fully understand the human heart is to back up the information above with some fun science activities! Here are just a few of the activities you could do on the subject of the human heart:
1. Listening To The Heart
One of the best ways to get an understanding of how the heart works is to associate the information in this article with the rhythmic noises the heart makes as it contracts.
You can use a stethoscope to listen to your heart beat, or simply use your hand to feel the pulse.
Each individual heartbeat should actually sound like two beats. What you’re hearing is the different sets of valves closing.
The first of the two sounds is produced when the tricuspid and mitral valves shut. The following sound is the result of the pulmonary and aortic valves closing.
If you don’t have a stethoscope to listen to the sounds, you can find your pulse by locating a larger artery and pressing on it with two fingers. The best places are the sides of your neck, or your inner wrist underneath your thumb.
You won’t feel the valves closing here, but you will be able to feel a single beat whenever your heart contracts.
You can time these beats to work out how many times per minute your heart is beating, and compare the number when you’re sitting down to when you’re active.
2. Coloring In
Coloring in heart diagrams is an excellent way to focus on the different parts of the heart’s anatomy. You can purchase coloring sheets online, or alternatively, there will be free diagrams you can download.
Encourage the use of anatomically correct colors based on real images of the human heart.
There are many science based toys and models of the human heart available to buy online or at toy stores.
For example, there are heart models that come with a pump you can squeeze to push liquid around the lungs and body, and these really help with visualization.
Learning about the human heart involves learning the different parts of the heart, including the atria, ventricles, and valves. It also involves learning about circulation, arteries, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.
However, this learning process can be made more fun by incorporating realistic models, coloring, and using a stethoscope.
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