A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart
Dianna Kathleen Adamski
University of Idaho
Grade 4-6

Each student will enter the wonderful world of the heart to study and discover facts relating to the heart and blood through the use of offline/online technology, observation, personal practical participation and a follow-up quiz.

Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

  • demonstrate their perception of what it means to have a healthy heart
  • comprehend what each individual needs to do in order to ensure a health, how to prevent heart disease
  • trace the path of the blood flow
  • identify heart disease, how heart disease affects ones health, how to prevent heart disease
  • have a general understanding of past, present and future heart science progress


  • Packages of heart stickers (enough for entire class - buy or make in advance )
  • 3 Doppler's or stethoscopes (borrow from community health C.N.A. program)
  • Kitchen timer
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Glossary hand-out
  • MAP of human heart hand out
  • Access to internet

Previewing activities:

  • Divide class into 3 groups
    (boys, girls, co-ed group)
  • Choose a team leader (records, assists instructor by handing out papers, leads the group discussion)
  • Each student is encouraged to document any data they choose.
  • Hand out a stethoscope or Doppler to each team leader
  • Hand out glossary and map to each student


(Keep this part a secret until the end of the lesson)

Throughout the lesson, students will participate in various ways, reading, asking and answering questions, etc. as each student voluntarily participates, he or she is to be rewarded with a heart (handmade or store bought) At the end of the lesson, each student will be asked to tally his/her total of hearts and the answer is to be reflected in the total impact of the whole lesson which is to say: "the hearts you have accumulated represent your active and voluntary participation in maintaining a healthy heart which means you are at a much lower risk for developing heart disease or heart failure."

"On the other hand, those who have the least amount of hearts accumulated represents your lesser voluntary participation in maintaining a healthy heart which puts you at a greater risk for developing heart disease/heart failure. The choice is yours: it is up to you decide whether to be an active or inactive participant in ensuring you have a healthy body and a healthy heart and possibly a longer life!"

Focus for viewing
To give students a specific responsibility while viewing " The Heart" and segments, each student will think of and write a question(s), thought, remedy, pertaining to the topic and be prepared to present It during the Q and A time.

Ideas: Think of someone you know who takes good care of their heart/health and relate to the class, based on your observations, what that person is doing to be so healthy .

Think of someone who does not take good care of their health and what according to your observations are they doing to hurt themselves?

Think about our own health practices -are there some ways you could improve how you are taking care of yourself and what are they? What would you suggest researchers do in order to utilize and promote faster, more advanced healing/surgical technologies?

Viewing Activities

Go to map of Human Heart website.

  • Instructor reads introduction.
  • Call on students to read sections 1-6.
  • Instructor reads concluding paragraph. Pause Here 
  • Each student who reads aloud or participates in any way gets a heart!

Post viewing activity: #1

  • Allow students to get up or sit in their places and listen to their own heartbeats for 15-30 seconds and record the number of beats heard (multiply by 2 for a full minute reading.)
  • After students have finished observing and recording, have them place the instrument back with the team leader.
  • Compare girls heartbeats with boys and then with the co-ed groups recordings. Make comparisons/ conclusions based on observations.

Activity #2:
Have students sit in their seats with their hands folded with the fingers of one hand entwined between the fingers of the opposite hand. Have students contract their hands (as a heart pumps) 1 beat per second or so and continue quietly for a minute or two and ask, "who is tired?"  Students should be able to relate to the awesome non stop, non tiring, pumping job of the heart. Students are encouraged to write down their observations and/or thoughts concerning the exercise. Ask for questions and answer each as fully but as briefly as possible.

HM00384_.WMF (5544 bytes)

Click on: treating a sick heart

Instructor reads overview aloud.

Paragraph 2 Who would like to read? Choose a student to read aloud. (don’t forget to give a heart for participation)
When student completes reading, ask, "Does everyone understand what a congestive heart failure is? " 

Paragraph 3 who would like to read? Choose a student to read aloud (hearts for participating) When student finishes, ask: "Does everyone understand the function of the valves in the heart? mitral valve in particular? What could happen as a result of a diseased or deformed mitral valve?"

Continue: Who develops heart failure? And what is the treatment? Ask for student participation in reading the paragraphs. Pause

Go through the glossary with students so they will have a working knowledge of the terminology.

Questions? Answer questions and continue with reading. Ask questions of students;  What is the most common cause of congestive heart failure?

Coronary artery disease is (student completes statement) _____ (narrowing of arteries supplying blood to the heart)

Discuss: hypertension,alcohol abuse, hyperthyroidism, aortic valve, mitral valve, viral infection, inflammation of heart (myocarditis), (Note: itis means inflammation cared/cardio means heart) primary heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy),  extreme vitamin deficiency.

All these can result in heart failure! The best treatment is prevention! Ask each student based on everything they have already learned to identify one way to prevent heart failure.
If not thought of instructor may add: Abstain from the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, unhealthy foods/beverages, and avoid the use of lots of table salt. Read food labels and choose foods without added preservatives.


Instructor; Read each photograph narrative as you display the corresponding photo.


  • Instructor reads paragraph 1 
  • Ask student to read segment 2 on Dr. Harken. Encourage comments at the end of the following segments.
  • Ask student to read segment 3 on Dr. Bill Bigelow, Canadian Surgeon (University of Minnesota)
  • Ask student to read segment 4 on Drs. Walton Lillehei and John Lewis. (remember hearts for participation)
  • Ask student to read segment 5 on Dr. Norman Shumway. (comments? Questions?)
  • Ask student to read segment 6 on Dr. Batista. Review with students the accomplishments of each doctor.
  • Ask the question: For the early pioneers of surgery, what was the main problem relating to the segments we just read? (answer: availability of hearts)
  • Highlight the previous reading by asking students for a chronological progression of surgical practices:

    1) patients bled to death and to temporarily stop a patient’s circulation gave doctors only 4 minutes (to perform the surgery) before the brain damage due to oxygen deprivation took place.

    2) Later the discovery of lowered body temperature (hypothermic approach ) thus reduced the brain’s need for oxygenated blood thus allowing longer surgery time.

    3) Eventually, led to successful open heart surgery on a 5 year old girl who had been born with a hole in her heart. then came the heart and lung machines.

    4)Then came heart transplants with problems of organ rejection then came the wonderful discovery of cyclosporin form Norway (new hope for the future of potential heart transplants)

    Teacher ends this portion of the lesson by saying:  How many hearts do each of you have? Add them up and then GO BACK TO PREVIEWING ACTIVITIES SECRET and follow those directions revealing high risk and low risk cardio-disease.

Final Activity

Instructor says:

Each of us can begin life anew if we only actively participate in the well being of our health. Today, each of us who choose to live a better, healthier and perhaps an even longer life can begin by making a written personal commitment to do so. Have students write:

"I, (your name), do pledge today to live a more healthy lifestyle from this day forward. I will exercise, eat right, and willingly abstain from unhealthy foods, drugs and beverages from this day forward.

Have the pledgor sign and exchange with a fellow student and even have the instructor sign. This will help to encourage the student to honor his/her pledge in the future. Suggest the students place this pledge card in a place where it will be in view daily 


  • Students assist in brainstorming for outside contacts and ideas relevant to today's topic.
  • Ask local doctor to visit the class and provide students with information on heart smart living.
  • Put on a Healthy Heart Health Fair during a science project section or ask a local mall if your group can put on a health fair using the materials from the lesson and anything else they can find.
  • Have nurse or American Heart Association to assist and perform blood pressure checks, etc.
  • Begin a school health scrapbook with pictures, stories, information, health tips, where to go for …, etc., just be creative, provide activities, games, and favorite recipes.
  • Take a walk to local hospital to view their Cardio-Therapy Room.
  • Contact National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, Maryland for list of government research, educational activities, videos, and publications you might use personally or share with the class.
  • The book: FREE HEALTH CARE! By Matthew Lesko is free for the asking by writing to FREE HEALTH CARE, FREE MEDICAL INFORMATION AND FREE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS INFORMATION USA, INC., P.O. Box E, Kensington, MD 20895

For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource!   You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites!  Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! 

Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!  Look for a localized version of Mathline and Scienceline on IdahoPTV next year!

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