Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:
  • Describe the function of the cardiovascular system
  • Create a drawing to illustrate the path of circulation in the body
  • Know the difference between veins, arteries, and capillaries
  • Understand the structure and function of the heart


Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

Show students the image Drawing of the Human Heart and its Blood Vessels by Leonardo da Vinci. 2-8-2012_6-35-14_PM.jpg
Ask them to make observations about what they are seeing. Students should know that it is a drawing
about the heart, so encourage them to dig deeper. What do they know about the heart? Why is it
important? Who created this drawing? Use students’ answers to your questions to help gauge
their pre-existing knowledge about the heart and the circulatory system.

After students have shared their answers, give them some background knowledge of the drawing. Leonardo da Vinci studied the heart and circulatory system from roughly 1490 to 1510. Many of his earlier drawings came from anatomical studies of pigs and oxen, though he was later able to study human bodies. His drawings showed an understanding of the veins and arteries connected to our heart, but he did not know that blood flowed in a path through the body. Like many of his contemporaries, da Vinci believed that blood was made in the liver, pumped by the heart, and consumed by the muscles.

Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content
Post the essential questions that constitute what students will be learning. Students may read them silently to themselves or you may wish to read them aloud together.
  • What is the function of the cardiovascular/circulatory system?
  • What are the parts of the cardiovascular/circulatory system that deliver blood to the body?
  • What is the function of the heart?
  • How does blood circulate through the body?

Instruct students to draw an outline of a human body, large enough to take up one full sheet of paper. They will complete this drawing throughout the lesson to aid in their understanding of the circulatory system.

2-8-2012_6-45-52_PM.jpgAssign for students to view or show the video segment The Circulatory System. This video provides an overview of the function of the circulatory system, and how blood moves through the body. Instruct students to take notes as they view.

To build upon the knowledge of the first video, show students the video segment The Circulatory System: The Body's Transport System. This video provides answers to all of the Essential Questions, so you should again instruct students to take notes as they view.

Then, have students refer back to their outline of the human body. By this point, they should have a solid2-8-2012_6-46-35_PM.jpg
grasp of the lesson sub-concepts. Instruct students to draw the body’s circulatory system. According to the level of your class, you may need to require certain elements to be included in the drawing, such as heart, lungs, arteries, veins, capillaries, and blood. Encourage students to include color, detail, and labels.Then, have students swap their drawing with a partner. Partners should critically assess each other’s drawings, making corrections or amendments as necessary. Select a few groups to share their drawings,
and discuss any changes they suggested.

Hands-On Activity
Students will complete the Hands-On Activity Exercise and Heart Rate.

Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know

Run through the answers to all of the Essential Questions. Select student volunteers to share their answers, and encourage other students to think critically about that answer. Is it correct? Are there other possible correct answers? Can you think of an example from your life that illustrates this answer? As you lead the discussion, also encourage your students to think about the ways various systems of our body interact with each other. For example, the circulatory system is closely linked to our respiratory and nervous system. By encouraging students to make these connections, they will gain a more complete understanding and appreciation for the complexity of the human body.

Have students review the interactive glossary terms below. In their journals they should write each term in their own words, use it in a sentence and draw an illustration to represent the term.

Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Virtual Labs, in addition to being an inquiry instructional tool, can be used to assess students’ skills in science investigation. For this concept, the virtual lab Getting to the Heart of It is particularly appropriate. Before assigning the lab to students, however, you may need to model the appropriate process. The Teacher Guide for this lab will help you achieve this.


In this Virtual Lab, students work to develop a health improvement plan for an older relative. They will figure out how exercise affects the human heart and circulatory system by observing three men in different physical condition as they complete varying exercise plans. Students will then plan an exercise program for the older relative, and, once the plan is approved, carry out the experiment. Be sure to circulate as students are working to ensure that they are running fair tests and to answer any questions they may have.

Project Ideas: To help your students apply their understanding of the circulatory system, you may wish to have your students complete some or all of the following projects. The time required to complete each project will vary; some may require students to work outside the classroom.
  • Students conduct additional research to help them create an illustration of the path of blood through the body. Students present their illustrations in poster form that can be turned in for a grade and displayed throughout the classroom.
  • Students develop an exercise and diet plan to support a healthy heart. They should conduct some additional research to learn about proper nutrition, and write up a one-month plan. The video segment Maintaining Cardiovascular Health is a good starting point for this project. For an extension, students can attempt to follow the healthy plan they have created.
  • Students conduct research on the history of human understanding of the heart. Possible topics include: Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, early heart surgeries, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, and history of human knowledge of the structure of the heart. You may want to give students a question to guide their research, such as “How do we know what we know?” Students write a short report to turn in for a grade.

Evaluate: Check for Understanding

Have students complete the Brief Constructed Response (BCR) item titled Circulatory System. You may also wish to assign the on-line concept assessment and use the results in the student reports to guide you in assigning any remediation to students