Group Work: Blood Pathway Activity
After my students had learned the basic anatomy of the heart, including the chambers and their functions, I wanted to help them visualize and internalize the one-way path that blood takes through all these parts of the heart and circulation. Because the pathway was such a physical and yet abstract concept, I thought this goal would be best served by a kinesthetic and visual activity involving teamwork on the part of the students.
I told the students that they would each represent a drop of blood somewhere in the human body, and passed out index cards, each stating "I am a drop of blood in the mitral valve," "I am a drop of blood in the lungs," etc. Their goal was to line up in order according to the path that the drop of blood would have to take through the body. Because the path is a loop, I provided a clear starting and ending card.
The students were allowed to look in their notes as they discussed amongst themselves how to line up. Many used the strategy of figuring out what part might come before and after them. However, there emerged a couple of students taking the lead, facilitating the activity so that the other students formed the line in an efficient and orderly way. Once they were all lined up, they each took turns drawing an arrow on a blank diagram on the board to show his or her position in the pathway. On a few occasions, students watching and waiting their turn realized an error as the diagram was coming together, and switched spots with others.
This collaborative and multi-sensory activity was effective at solidifying students' understanding of how the various parts of the heart and circulation join together to form a continuous circuit for bloodflow. It also gave students practice working together as a team, with some taking the lead and others stepping back. With such activities in the future, I might designate leaders and followers, deliberately giving the leading role to normally less vocal students to build their confidence in their ability to facilitate.