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Straight from the Heart!

Valentine's Day means cinnamon hearts, conversation hearts, and paper hearts -- and a "hearty" collection of activities for children. If you haven't prepared, don't be brokenhearted These lessons will put you in the loving spirit of the holiday!

Heart GIF

J. Dennis Squires, an instructional technologist in the Perry (Michigan) Public Schools, created a Web site that shows off the prowess of Perry Elementary students as they participated in Jump Rope for Heart 98.

"I took the digital pictures and created the PowerPoint presentation for two reasons," says Squires. "First, to give all of the students of Perry Elementary recognition, and second, to share what's happening in the Perry Public Schools with the whole world via the Internet."

Jump Rope for Heart is an American Heart Association program that is designed to encourage students to get involved in regular exercise -- especially jumping rope! Students seek sponsors and jump rope as a group to raise money for the health organization.

"This year will mark the eighth year Perry Elementary has participated in Jump Rope for Heart," says Squires.

"A number of staff members heard about Jump Rope for Heart, including our physical education teacher," Squires explains. "They felt it would be a worthwhile activity for students to be involved in, and the money they raise is always donated to the American Heart Association."

Fifth graders at the school actually created a video with interviews of students and staff members about Jump Rope for Heart before the actual day of the students' marathon jump!

Parent and student support for Jump Rope for Heart is running high at Perry Elementary. "The response has been overwhelming!" says Squires. "Over 200 students from the 500 that are in the building from grades K-5 participate. This also includes many parents who volunteer their time for this event."

Is your school active in a program like Jump Rope for Heart? If not, find out about skills that the program focuses on at Jump Rope for Heart Skills, and fuel your students' interest in it with a Jump Rope for Heart Game. You will find food for thought in Children and the Need for Physical Activity: Fact Sheet, a page of details about the health of children in the United States today.

Even if you aren't ready to get involved in Jump Rope for Heart, the following heart resources and activities will give your students some cardiac care!


Probably the best heart-related resource on the Internet for students is The Heart: An Online Exploration from the Franklin Institute Science Museum. You will definitely want to begin your study with this virtual trip through the heart and its functions. The site offers pages that address the development and structure of the heart, how blood flows through blood vessels, body systems, maintaining a healthy heart, monitoring the heart, and the history of heart science. Because this site requires a great deal of reading, you may use it to gain a better understanding of the heart and to help you explain it to your younger students. Older students can experience the heart on their own!

Your heart will skip a beat when you share one of these heart-related activities!

Art -- making heart crafts. Nothing pulls at the heartstrings of a mother more than a handmade heart from her child. You can help your students win points with their moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas with these crafts from the BetterHomes Kitchen Crafts Page. Appropriate but not exclusively reserved for Valentine's Day, your students will love making a 3-D Heart, Pop-Up Valentine Card, Heart Cone, Heart Book Pendant, or one of the many other crafts. You might have your students make the book pendant before you visit a great site with lots of facts and have them record in their books some of the details they learn!

Science -- solving questions about the heart. Have your students practice their question-writing skills and study the heart as they take on the role of "experts." You may be familiar with the "Ask an Expert" Web sites that allow students to submit questions, but how often do students get to be the experts? Introduce them to the concept with the page Lisa Smart Asks, "What Is a Heart?" Then have each student think about the heart and write a question on a piece of paper. Fold the papers and place them in a box. Allow each student to draw a paper from the box and perform Internet research to find the answer to the chosen question. Help as necessary. Sites like Yahooligans! are safe for student searching, or try the resource The Heart: An Online Exploration.

Language arts -- making conversation (hearts). Conversation hearts are a favorite Valentine's Day tradition. You can learn some facts about those delightful candy hearts with the witty sayings at Necco Holidays - Conversation Hearts. When your students have been adequately schooled on the conversation heart, have them create one for a bulletin board in your classroom. The hearts should have one line of five or less characters or two lines of no more than four characters each.

Math -- counting and graphing. Wrap-up the above activity by bringing in a touch of math with Valentine Candy Count, a lesson for students in grades 1-4 that has them counting and graphing the contents of a bag of conversation hearts!

Health -- "hearty" recipes. One way to improve physical health is to eat better, and that means cooking foods that are tasty and good for the heart! The American Heart Association Kids' Cookbook contains many such recipes, and two are provided on the AHA Web site: Shake-It-Up Chicken Nuggets and Gingersnaps. Have some fun making and eating one of these healthy foods, or show you have a heart by baking the cookies and giving them to a charitable organization near you!

Math -- calculate target heart rate. Your students can find out how to calculate their ideal heart rate at the Target Heart Rate Calculator. Have them follow the directions at the bottom of the page by subtracting their age from 220 and finding their target heart rate and multiplying that number by 60% for minimum training heart rate and by 80% for maximum training heart rate. After they have completed the arithmetic, instruct them to go to the top of the page and use the calculator to check their answers. Next, follow the directions found in Taking a Pulse, a lesson for grades 4-6, and have the students measure their pulse. How does their actual pulse compare with the desired numbers?

Language arts/art -- one with no heart. Among favorite children's stories, one of Dr. Seuss's best is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch was a heartless tyrant until he learned about the true joy of Christmas. Teaching Master 1: How Big Is Your Heart? directs your students to think about the Grinch's heart and how it changed throughout the story.

Health -- heart healthy habits. At A Guide to a Healthy Heart from Kellogg's, have your students click on "Heart Healthy" and they will discover how to avoid coronary heart disease. The guide reinforces good eating habits, exercise, and avoidance of habits that are bad for the body like smoking. Use this site as the starting point for a discussion about taking care of one's body with good nutrition and exercise to maintain a healthy heart.

Health -- learning CPR. Everyone should be aware of the six simple steps to CPR. CPR - You CAN Do It!, from the Heart Information Network, explains all of them. The CPR Rap is a song written for kids to help them remember the rules to follow when someone needs CPR. Your students will love the audio clip, and they can read the entire set of lyrics to the song. Make a list of the steps in CPR with your class after you have visited these Web sites and consider inviting a CPR instructor to speak to your students. The technique is a valuable life-saving tool that even young people can learn.

Science -- workings of the heart. With Teaching Master 2: Getting to the Heart of It!, your students will endeavor to answer a set of questions that reveal the innermost secrets of the heart. The Heart Page is their online resource.

ANSWERS: 1. pear, 2. murmur, 3. septum, 4. arterioles, 5. atria, 6. sodium and potassium, 7. endocardium, 8. capillaries, 9. aorta, 10. mitral.

Language arts/health -- heart quizzes. Your students will have fun with the Just for Fun Heart Quiz from the American Heart Association. This quiz has students matching the names of songs that have the word "heart" in them with the artists who recorded them. The Healthy Heart Quiz is more scientific in nature and requires students to answer a series of questions about heart health and the body, and it corrects them instantly with explanations of the answers.

Science -- diagnosing the heart. Take your students a step beyond experts with this activity, and make them specialists! Synapse Publishing Collection of Murmurs, Defects, and Others provides audio files of heart sounds that are both normal and abnormal for various reasons. Usually used as a tool for doctors-in-training, your students can listen to the files and discover for themselves how difficult the job of these physicians really is. Visit Heart Murmurs for a simple explanation of heart murmurs and how they are treated.

Science -- studying the heart up-close. Doctors have excellent ways to study the heart in-depth without causing their patients discomfort. Your students will investigate some of those means with Library Images in Echocardiography. Here students can examine pictures like those that cardiologists see every day and use them to try to solve some very difficult questions. Muscle Alive is a program that illustrates how heart muscle functions, and Cool Stuff is another portion of the same Web site. This section has two movies of interest, the "Beating Heart Movie," and "Trip Down the Coronary Artery." The movies require the Apple Quicktime plug-in that is available for most operating systems.

Language arts -- heartfelt quotes. Send your students on a mystery to find the figures behind the heartfelt quotes on Teaching Master 3: A Quote from the Heart -- Who Said It? -- all fifteen of them! Students will use the Web resources Familiar Quotations, Quotation Search, and Quotation Center's Search Facility.

ANSWERS: 1. William Shakespeare, 2. Benjamin Franklin, 3. King Farouk of Egypt, 4. Blaise Pascal, 5. Elizabeth Ashley, 6. Robert Benchley, 7. Gilbert K. Chesterton, 8. Charles Schulz, 9. Al Bernstein, 10. Robert Bloch, 11. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 12. Diana Princess of Wales, 13. Margaret Thatcher, 14. Samuel Woodworth, 15. Henry W. Longfellow.

Health -- understanding heart disease. The Three R's of Heart Disease are reduce, recognize, and respond. Knowing these R's and putting them into action can save lives. Your students probably know a friend or family member who is at risk or is suffering from heart disease. Have them design an informational brochure based on the 3R's of Heart Disease. They may use information from this site as well as other medical sites on the Internet.

Language arts -- reading and responding. Select a few personal accounts from these HeartInfo Patient Stories and print them for your students. Have the students read the essays and respond to the patients by writing letters of encouragement. Ask them to consider if the patients' accounts inspire them to make any lifestyle or dietary changes and tell them to include these in their letters.


  • Blood Circulation Through the Heart -- Kinesthetic Activity This is a great game for young students that explains how blood flows through the heart.

  • Heart Song Try a variation of this simple activity which involves measuring a child's pulse when he is at rest, active, and very active.

  • In a Heartbeat This is a fabulous demonstration idea for showing your students' pulse with miniature marshmallows and toothpicks.

  • Heartfelt An excellent activity for students to use to listen to the heart and take a pulse.

  • Learning About the Cardiovascular System This is a lesson for third graders about the heart and blood. A worksheet is included, and the directions for an interesting mix of candy blood are a part of the activity!

  • Heart Beat In this lesson, students create a line graph of their pulse rates at various levels of activity.

  • I've Got Rhythm Students in grades 5-7 will enjoy this lesson that involves taking their pulse after exercise and graphing and interpreting the results.

  • Heart Attacks This lesson for grades 10-12 teaches students how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.

Article by Cara Bafile
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