Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I've got my 3.75 year old twins at home instead of in preschool for a short period of time, this is Day 2 of my Big Preschool at Home project- I'm hoping to keep up with the blogging, both as a record and to help anyone else who is planning something similar or wants to supplement preschool with some discovery learning and science activities.

On the docket for today: Blood, circulation and the heart, as a part of our week about the body.

We listened to the heart, breath sounds and the belly in the morning after breakfast, and I asked the kids to imitate the noises we heard. I have a stethoscope, but this could be done just by laying an ear on chest and belly in a quiet room.

Then for a short sit down lesson on blood. First we looked at pictures of the circulatory system, and I talked to them about how it is basically just a bunch of tiny tubes running through the body (we've talked before about tubes, and how the body is made up of many hollow tubes) filled with blood. Then we took a quick book break (which I'm discovering is vital to this school-at-home process and looked at vessels on our own bodies- the inside of the wrist and elbow are two good spots to see them if you have a pale kid, but gentle pressure around the adult's lower arm will make anyone's veins pop up a little, enough to be felt.

We talked about how the cells in the body get hungry and need oxygen/air, and how the blood's job is to bring food and oxygen to the cells. I illustrated this by grabbing their big toes and pretending to be a tiny big toe cell shrieking in hunger. Then I traced how the blood would come charging down to bring food to the cell.

(This could also easily be turned into a running game. One kid could be the hungry cell, some food or play food in a big pile in another area (the "stomach/belly"), and some chalk to draw the outline of the this stomach and a maze of chalk "vessels" connecting the two. One person can be the blood, running through the maze to bring food to the hungry cell. We'll probably try this out later this week.)

After they seemed like they grasped the idea of blood transporting things the cells needed through the vessels, it was time for the big fun project: DIY Giant Heart!

I rigged this up almost totally on the fly, and it really worked out well!

I got a jar and filled it halfway with water, added some red food coloring to be the blood. Then I got a turkey baster and the clear tubing from our seldom-used Nosefrida, but any clear tubing would work. I stuck the turkey baster nozzle into the tubing (it was a tight fit that kept popping out, so I duct taped it together and it worked like a charm). Next a tried to minimize mess by putting it all in a pan to catch the inevitable spilled "blood". Lastly, I got several small cups to be my hungry cells that needed blood to bring them food and air.

Before the big reveal of the project, I presented them with a problem: if the blood is in the vessel, how does it move to the hungry big toe cell? To illustrate, I got some "blood" in the tubing (before attaching it to the baster)  and showed them the hungry "cells" and asked how the blood could get to the cell. I was totally pleased with Alex's answer that we could "squeeze the blood through"!

I introduced the idea of a heart as a big muscle that squeezes the blood through the vessels, and then showed them how the baster bulb was like a big  heart that could pump the blood to the cells. They each took turn pumping the blood and holding the vessel in the cells, learning how to suck the blood back to the heart as well.

After all that kind of intense learning, I left them to play with the tubes and suction- it was awesome to hear them pretending to be hungry cells, working out problems ("No, Alex, you have to squeeze the heart, this cell needs food!"). When they spilled, I asked what it meant when blood comes out of the vessels where it is supposed to stay, and Anya chirped, "It's an owie!" so we talked about how the spilled "blood" in the pan was a bruise- still in our imaginary giant's body but not in the vessels where it should be.

After about a 45 minutes of playing with the project, we cleaned up and I briefly mentioned that the when the heart squeezes it makes a noise, which is the lub-dub we heard with the stethoscope that morning. I asked if they remembered the other two sounds we heard (they did) and introduced the idea that the lung and belly sounds are related to air and food,  two things that blood transports to the cells. We haven't started on those two yet, but I felt pretty good about all the stuff we learned about the circulatory system as a good lead in to digestion and respiratory.

All in all, it's been an amazing two days of working with the kids on some stuff that could have been overwhelming. I'm in awe of their minds, and how they are constantly learning and investigating, and the more opportunities I provide, the more connections they make.


KJ said...

That is seriously awesome and I love that your kids were so into it!!

Darcy said...

Thanks, KJ! I think we've started having way more fun and way less grumpiness since we started doing this.