A heart-pounding presentation in the school gym


jpii1-webLeft: Students of John Paul II Regional School, Stratford, crawl through tunnels to learn about the four chambers of the heart and the circulatory system.

Right photo: Jared Mattio and Alex White listen to their own heartbeats.jpii2-web

Kathleen Higgins’ health science exploratory — with the Interactive Heart Project — is one of the most popular elective classes offered to sixth, seventh and eighth graders at John Paul II Regional School, Stratford.

Higgins, a registered nurse, is a volunteer teacher at John Paul II and employee of the University of Pennsylania.

Now in its second year, the heart project requires students to study, build and present all the stations of the heart and circulatory system in a way that allows younger students to literally walk through.

From T-shirts that say “hemoglobin” and “oxygen” to tents and stethoscopes and Smartboards, the class combines fun and information.

Here’s how it looked. The school’s parish hall was divided into six stations, five around the perimeter and one in the center. Groups of third grade students rotated from station to station every 10 minutes. The student instructors were completely in charge the day of the presentation — including reciting dialogue — and responsible for making sure that the third grade audience can navigate it.

Station 1: Mats, tents and tunnels represent the four chambers of the heart and veins/arteries that supply the heart with blood flow.

Station 2: A laptop and two circulatory maps with inflated balloons for lungs acquaint the children with the entire body blood flow. Children draw their own circulatory map.

Station 3: Get a pulse. With a pulse watch, student instructors take the child’s resting heart rate and then check it again after asking the child to run in place.

Station 4: You are what you eat. Student instructors discuss the need for balanced nutrition. Children get to sample healthy fruits.

Station 5: Smartboard Lub Dub. With the use of a Smartboard, students hear different heart sounds on different locations of the check. Then they listen to their own heartbeat with a stethoscope.

Station 6: Name that part. Using the Smartboard, children drop and drag sections of the heart to their proper place.