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STEM Valentine’s Day Celebration: Learning about the Human Heart

Feb 12, 2021    |   Classroom Activity PrintablesSTEM Learning

There is a popular saying in the ECE field that preschoolers are “little scientists” because of their natural curiosity and eagerness to explore. Young children love to ask questions to better understand the world around them; and one of the many things that children wonder about is their body. Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity to learn about a favorite body part, the heart. In this week’s Tips & Tools post, you’ll find fun STEM and heart-filled learning activities.

Introducing the Conversation

Many children already have some familiarity with their heart and where it is located in their body. Some might even have noticed their heart beating. This awareness makes the heart a great introductory topic to the human body and to many other concepts in biology.

Before beginning an activity about the heart, you might introduce the topic with a simple conversation at circle time, morning meeting, or any other time that you typically engage the children in group discussion. Here’s one example of a heart conversation-starter:

A special holiday called Valentine’s Day is coming up/was celebrated this week. Valentine’s Day is celebrated with lots of hearts, like heart decorations and heart art activities. This makes me think about the hearts in our bodies…Does anyone know where their heart is? 

During this conversation, ask questions to get an idea of what the children know and what they want to know, such as…“What do you know about your heart?” “Why do we have hearts?” “What do you think a heart does?” “Does everyone have a heart?” “What about animals, do they have hearts?” You might share with children a picture of an anatomical heart, so that they can see it and look at the different parts.

Facilitating Exploration

One of the best ways to facilitate STEM exploration is to let the children lead the way. Be flexible with your plans for each activity and allow children’s questions and ideas to set the pace.

When children ask questions, try not to offer answers too quickly.  Instead, saying something like “That’s an interesting question! How can we figure that out?” will give children a chance to hypothesize and experiment with their own ideas. During the project, you might encourage interest by asking: “What will happen if I try this?”What kinds of things can we try next?” 

At the end of the activity, follow up with another brief discussion to give children a chance to reflect on what they learned, share their ideas, and maybe even think about what kinds of activities to try next!

STEM Activities for Exploring the Heart

Get your Heart Pumping!

This activity requires no materials or set-up. To help children learn about their hearts, have them stand up and put their hands on their heart to see if they can feel it beating. Then, have children do some kind of physical activity in place to get their heart rates up. This might be jumping up and down, running in place, hopping on one foot, dancing, or whatever movement they enjoy.

Once they’ve moved around, have children put their hands on their chest to see how their heart rate has increased. Ask questions about how their bodies feel different or what it feels like when their heart is pumping so quickly.

Heart Pump Model: Cardiovascular STEM for Kids

This activity is a great hands-on way for children to explore and understand the way the  heart works to pump blood through our bodies. It requires a few materials and some quick set-up. Click here for the full instructions. While the activity looks impressive, it is actually really simple to set up!

Materials Needed:

  • Small jar or glass

  • 2 Bendy straws

  • Balloon

  • Tape/Glue

  • Water

  • Red food coloring (not required but helps to give the activity a more realistic look)

This activity is best set up in a large bin, a container, or somewhere in your classroom that can get wet, as children might get excited by the pumping and the water can splash. Allow children to take turns pumping the heart, while talking about the way the simple pump represents how our heart pumps blood through our bodies!

To see other ways that this activity has been set-up, check out the following links: Pumping Heart Model from Mom Brite and Heart Pumping Human Body Science Experiment.

Learn about the Heart: Simple Anatomy Lesson with Plastic Bags

This activity allows children to create their own heart and demonstrate how our hearts make our blood flow. And, it requires only a few materials and very little set-up!

Materials Needed: 

  • A Ziploc bag

  • Two straws (one red and one blue)

  • Two pipe cleaners (one red and one blue)

  • A large red marker to marker

  • A hot glue gun

To create the heart, children will color one side of the ziploc bag red and the other side blue. Then, with your help, they will cut the pipe cleaners in different lengths and glue the pipe cleaners to the bag to represent one blue cardiac vein and one red coronary artery. (Having a picture of an actual heart nearby might help the children visualize the parts of the heart.) Then, insert a blue and red straw and zip the bag. Have the child gently blow into the straw and watch as the heart beats.

Click here for the full, detailed instructions to set this activity up.

Printables & Books for Further Learning

Organ Printables

This link will take you to free, colored organ clip-art printables of various human organs, including the heart. The website requires you to create an account, but it is free to sign-up and the images are free to download.

Body Systems Science Booklet

This free booklet contains simple images of different systems of the human body. The images can be easily stapled together to create small books that children can use for coloring and exploration. These sheets can also be laminated if you’d like them to stay in your classroom.

Thump-Thump: Learning About Your Heart 

Written by Pamela Hill Nettleton and illustrated by Becky Shipe

This simple story explores the heart, in a way that is developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. The book is great for reading aloud, or for leaving in your classroom library for children to explore on their own.

Me and My Amazing Body

Written by Joan Sweeney and illustrated by Ed Miller

This book explores general anatomy throughout the body, but also includes a look at the heart. The book has bright, detailed illustrations with information about how the body works.

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