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        6-8, 13+

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        The Circulatory System

        Students explore the interrelationship of structure and function in the circulatory system.

        Lesson Summary


        In this activity, students explore the interrelationship of structure and function in the circulatory system. They begin by naming the parts of the circulatory system and telling what each part does. Then they draw a picture of the heart and describe the pathway of blood through it. They discover how transplants are performed by playing the role of a surgeon in a Web activity. They research various artificial heart designs and compare them to the structure and function of the human heart. In the second part of the lesson, students play a Web game that simulates the job of the circulatory system and then discuss how it interacts with other human systems. They explore the role of red blood cells and how their function can be affected by a gene mutation that causes sickle cell anemia. Finally, students complete a word search puzzle about the circulatory system.


        • Explore the structure and function of the heart and blood vessels
        • Learn why and how heart transplants are performed
        • Compare the structure of artificial and human hearts
        • Explore the interaction of the circulatory system with other body systems
        • Learn how a gene mutation can affect the structure and function of red blood cells

        Suggested Time

        • Two to three class periods

        Multimedia Resources

        Use these resources to create a simple assessment or video-based assignment with the Lesson Builder tool on PBS LearningMedia.


        Before the Lesson

        The Lesson

        Part I

        1. Show the video From the Heart and discuss the following:

        • What structures make up the circulatory system in humans?
        • What role does the heart play in the circulatory system?
        • How does the heart's structure help it do its job?
        • What role does each type of branching blood vessel -- artery, capillary, and vein -- serve? How does the structure of each type of blood vessel relate to its function?

        2. Have students review the Map of the Human Heart and describe the different pumping jobs of the two sides of the heart. Ask students to make a labeled drawing of the heart and show the pathway of blood from when it enters the right side of the heart until it delivers oxygen to the rest of the body.

        3. Explain that because the heart plays such an essential role in the body, people whose hearts no longer function effectively may need to have a heart transplant to stay alive. Have students assume the role of surgeon and perform a virtual heart transplant in the OPERATION: Heart Transplant Web activity. Then discuss the following:

        • What are some reasons why a person might need a heart transplant?
        • Where do you think donor hearts come from?
        • Because human donor hearts are so scarce, doctors have recently begun investigating the possibility of using hearts from different species for transplants in humans. Why might this be problematic?

        4. Tell students that due to the shortage of human donor hearts, scientists have begun developing artificial hearts. Ask:

        • What structures would need to be included in the design of an artificial heart to enable it to function like a human heart?

        Have students explore various artificial heart designs on the Web (using the key words "artificial heart" to search) and in the library and report back on their research.

        Part II

        5. In order to survive, every living cell in the body needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients and needs to have wastes removed. In the Web activity Cellular Service, students will follow a small sample of blood as it travels throughout the body. The goal of the activity is to keep a few cells located in an extremity of the body alive and healthy. Have students do the Cellular Service Web activity. Afterwards, discuss how the circulatory system interacts with the respiratory, digestive, and endocrine systems.

        6. Ask students to describe what they know about the role of blood cells in the circulatory system, and write the information on the board. Show students the A Mutation Story video, then ask:

        • What is the role of red blood cells and how does their structure relate to their function?
        • How does a mutation in the red blood cell gene affect the structure and function of red blood cells?

        7. Have students complete the word search puzzle You've Got to Have Heart (PDF). Or, have students use the Amazing Heart Facts document and what they have learned in this lesson to make up puzzles about the circulatory system for their classmates to complete. They can search the Web to find sites that will help them make a variety of puzzles, using the key words "puzzles" or "puzzlemakers".


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