Valentine's Day Biology Activity Options:
When I think about Valentine’s Day the first two things that pop into my head, are hearts and chocolate. This is not a surprise since Valentine’s Day is largely centered around our hearts, sharing love, and sharing chocolate! The American Heart Association has even named February American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart health and to spread strategies on how to live a heart healthy life.
Sharing chocolate is my favorite reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I will enjoy my dark chocolate hearts guilt-free this year because I recently stumbled upon a study from 2014 that found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls. It’s a win-win! In honor of Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month I’ve put together some activities that you can try with your biology class. I recommend grabbing a bag of dark chocolate hearts before starting this Valentine’s Day biology activity so your students can practice restoring their arteries and learning how to be heart-healthy!
Check out the article here:
You can launch this Valentine’s Day biology activity by sharing chocolate and the findings of the 2014 study. Take a minute or two to ask students other ways in which they can live a heart healthy life. Sometimes the best way to manage your health is to find new ways to be aware of how your body works.
Here's the activity sheet to print and pass out to your class for this lab:
Valentine's Day Heart Rate Lesson Exploration
One way to do this is to “live a day in your heart” and track your heart rate during various activities. Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Normal heart rate varies from person to person but being aware of your own pulse can help you stay on a heart healthy track.
Explain to students that heart rate can be tracked by counting the number of beats using 2 fingers on your wrist between the bone and the tendon. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.
Model how to feel your heart rate and then have students try and feel for their own pulse using two fingers on their wrists. Tell them to try and count how many beats they feel.
After students seem confident that they have found their pulse, explain that this is called resting heart rate. Resting heart rate is when the heart is pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising. When you’re sitting and relaxing, your heart rate is normally between 60-100 beats per minute. Use this opportunity to have students make a hypothesis of what they think their heart rate is immediately after recess time.
Valentine's Day Biology Heart Rate Chart Exploration
For the lesson, it’s probably best to compare resting rate to active rate. Since there are other factors that affect heart rate, such as: temperature, body position, emotions, body size, and medication use, not everyone will have the same heart rate at rest or during exercise. This is another way we are all unique! This is also why resting and active heart rates are given in ranges; everyone's bpm will be slightly different from each other. That’s why today the focus is finding trends on how heart rate changes depending on whether we are inactive, slightly active, or very active.
The first chart below, goes over 3 different levels of physical activity. This chart gives students a percentage of how much they’re using their hearts, and provides examples and benefits to each of the 3 levels. This chart will be a good source for students to refer back to when they are charting bpm with a partner, in the next section!
The second chart explains the “target zones” for where our heart rate should be at, according to how much activity we are doing. For example, if a student who is 10 years old is putting in 75% of their maximum effort, their heart rate will be around 157 bpm. This chart gives students an idea of how the trend changes, according to how strenuous the activity is.
You can go over as many charts as you want. Some will compare resting rate to active rate, or resting rate to sleeping rate. The most important concept is that students understand their heart rate will change as they move around and become more active, so their heart rate will increase from a resting 60-100 to an active rate above 100.
You can encourage students to track their heart rate during sleep and vigorous activity by using a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or a smartphone app.
These examples can be printed for each student, or you make your own on a whiteboard or SmartBoard.
Before you get into the main activity, have students practice changing their heart rates: have them stand up and do a lap around the room. Ask them if they feel a change in heart rate. Then, have them jump up and down in their spots for 30 seconds. What does the heart rate change feel like now? Students should be able to touch their hand to their chest and feel their heart pumping faster after jumping up and down. Refer back to the “Target Zone” chart, that an increase in activity leads to an increase in beats per minute! This trend is a concept you should refer back to through-out the lesson.
Before having students move into partner work, it would be useful to go over some key vocabulary words: pulse, heart rate, resting rate, active rate, circulation, respiration, bpm (beats per minute). Most of these terms have already been mentioned, but it’s always helpful to do a quick review before students go off into group work.
Valentine's Day Biology Partner Activity
Have students partner up. They should have paper and a pencil so they can chart their findings.
Instead of students finding their own pulses, they will perform various activities while their partner charts their heart rate. Partners will switch back and forth from exercise to pulse taking.
Partners will decide on their own physical activities, and will chart their work. It is probably best to remind students about personal space, classroom safety etc. Also, remind students that they should be taking sufficient breaks in between each activity so their heart rate can drop down to resting rate before they begin another exercise. Make a few suggestions on how to bring heart rate down: example taking deep breaths, sitting down etc. Give students a few examples of activities from the chart below to get them started.
Students should develop charts that look similar to this:
|Sitting at their desk||75 bpm|
|20 push-ups||95 bpm|
|Lifting a textbook up and down 15 times||80 bpm|
|Holding a plank for 45 seconds||120 bpm|
Students should have between 4-6 activities of varying activity on their charts. Remind students that while their charting heart rates, they should be looking for a trend in their numbers.
You can place the heart rate formula on the board for students to refer to:
Number of Beats in 15 seconds x 4
When each group has their 4-6 activities charted, have them return to their desks and have a class discussion on their findings. Give each group about a minute to share what activities they did, and what their heart rate numbers were.
What is the common trend of the charts? Students should be able to explain that the more vigorous the activity, the more beats per minute their partner had.
You can encourage students to pass around their charts so other groups can see the heart rate trends. Remind students that each group chose different physical activities, and everyone has different heart rates, so their bpm will be different. It’s not a competition!
Biology Valentine's Day Individual Activity
As an ode to both Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, have students make biology Valentine’s Day cards that educate loved ones on heart rate and heart healthy living. Say that you like to call them “Biotine’s Day Cards”!
Students will need craft supplies: construction paper, markers, scissors, glue.
Since this is a science lesson focused on heart rate and healthy hearts, make sure students include information from the lesson, in their cards. Encourage students to make Valentine’s Day biology jokes or Valentine’s Day poems that will teach their friends and family how to get their heart rate pumping!
Students can also include information from the dark chocolate study! Students can/should also use their knowledge of science from topics studied previously in the year. They can include chemical bonding, cell structure etc.
If your class has access to computers, students may want to fact check information before creating their Biotine’s Day cards.
To wrap up a pumping time, have volunteers share their Biotine’s Day cards with the class.
Encourage students to track their heart rate during various activities for the next few hours after class. Try and notice whether any of the other factors affect their pulse such as temperature, emotions, and body position.
Valentine's Day Biology Heart Rate Resources
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