Teaching overview

Learning points

  • A heart transplant is a form of surgery in which a damaged heart is replaced with a new one.
  • There is a long waiting list for donor hearts.
  • Cells are the building blocks of living things.
  • Doctors can remove the cells from a heart to leave a frame on which to grow new, healthy tissue.

Curriculum keywords

  • Circulatory system
  • Human body
  • Heart
  • Blood
  • Blood vessels

Spark a discussion

  • What do you know about different body systems? What do you know about the circulatory system?
  • What is the main organ of the circulatory system? What does the heart do?
  • What can we do to help keep our hearts healthy?
  • How can doctors keep a person alive if his/her heart stops working?
  • Can we replace the organs in our bodies?
  • What are organs made out of? What are tissues made out of?
  • Do you think humans and animals have similar hearts?
  • Do you think hearts and other organs can be grown outside of a human body?
  • Why do you think there is usually a long waiting list for an organ transplant?
  • What else could be done to cut waiting lists?

Multimedia toolbox

Heartbeat audio

Play this clip before the film, and ask the children to identify the sound and discuss the role of the heart in the circulatory system.

Circulatory system

Show this visual before the film and ask the children to match the keywords to the statements, to assess prior knowledge of the circulatory system.

Organ transplant
An operation in which an organ is transferred from one person’s body to another.

Organ transplant

Show this visual after the film to reinforce key scientific language.

The smallest unit of life possible.


Show this visual after the films to reinforce key scientific language.

Heartbeat loop

Play this clip to spark a discussion on the importance of maintaining a healthy heart, and the risks of heart disease and/or heart failure.


Changing heart rate

INVESTIGATE how heart rate changes after different types of exercise.

Open detailed instructions

Other activity ideas

  • DESIGN posters that show the importance of maintaining a healthy heart through exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and not smoking.
  • RESEARCH the issue of organ donation, including which organs and tissues can be donated, and the reasons why people may or may not want to donate parts of their body after they die.
  • EXPLORE how hard the heart works by measuring a volunteer’s resting heart rate, and then calculating the number of beats in an hour, in a day, in a year, and in their whole life so far! You could then see how this compares with different animal heart rates.
  • CONSTRUCT a model circulatory system using drinking straws to represent blood vessels, a small plastic bottle as the heart, and a mixture of water and red food colouring for blood.
Print this sheet

Changing heart rate

Duration: 40 minutes


Key Learning:

This investigation asks the students to explore how different exercises affect heart rate. It encourages them to think about how hard their heart has to work to pump blood around the body. The investigation involves important scientific skills, including mathematical calculations and accurate timekeeping.

Activity instructions:

  1. Divide the class into groups of four and distribute the resources. Explain to the class that they are going to carry out an investigation into the effects of exercise on heart rate. Safety note: Ensure that the chosen exercise activities are appropriate for both the space and the students’ clothing/footwear, and be aware of any physical or health conditions that may affect or limit participation, such as asthma.
  2. Ask the groups to plan their investigations using the Planning an investigation activity sheet. Note: Example exercises include jogging on the spot, star jumps, skipping, press-ups and sit-ups.
  3. Ask the groups to predict which exercise will increase the pulse rate the most and why. You may want to use the following prompt questions:
    • How many parts of your body are actively engaged in each exercise?
    • Why do you think your heart needs to work harder in some exercises compared to others?
  4. Ask the students to assign each member of the group a different responsibility: someone to do the exercises, someone to measure their pulse before and after, someone to time the exercises, and someone to record the results in the Observation recording table.
  5. Show the groups how to measure resting heart rate by lightly pressing their fingers against the person’s wrist or neck, and counting the number of pulses in 15 seconds. They can then multiply this number by four to work out the number of beats per minute.
  6. Allow the groups time to complete their investigations. They should measure the volunteer’s pulse rate before and after each of the three exercises, and record their results in the Observation recording table. Remind the students that the type of exercise is the only variable that should change during this investigation; all other variables, such as the person doing the exercise and the length of time they exercise for, should be kept the same.
  7. Once the groups have gathered their results, ask them to complete the last section of the Planning an investigation activity sheet.
  8. Discuss the results as a class. Were their predictions correct? What could they do differently next time? Did the person’s heart rate return to its resting rate between each exercise? If not, how might that have affected the results?
  9. Ask the groups to write a short paragraph that interprets their results and draws a conclusion. They could also create a line graph or bar chart to display their results.

Background information

  • The human circulatory system consists of the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries.
  • The heart is a strong muscle that pumps blood to every part of the body. Blood is carried away from the heart in arteries and back to the heart in veins.
  • Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to all the body’s cells, and takes waste carbon dioxide to the lungs so it can be expelled.
  • Organs, such as the heart, are made out of tissues. Tissues are made out of cells.
  • Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. New cells are produced when an existing cell divides. This allows the body to grow and repair tissues.
  • Research into the field of regenerative medicine may one day allow organs and tissues to be grown in a lab and then transplanted into a patient.


The smallest unit of life possible. Cells are tiny structures that make up all living things.
A part of the body that performs a specific function. Animal organs include the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and skin.
Organ transplant
An operation in which an organ is transferred from one person’s body to another.

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on the circulatory system from Tigtag.

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Discover free online CPD for primary science from Reach Out CPD.

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