Science Club – Hearts

Circulatory System

Arrival Craft: Draw red and blue lines onto a body shape to model the circulatory system.


Demonstration: What is blood like? Can you name any of the types of blood cells in the body? Our blood is mostly made of red blood cells, there’s about one white blood cell (about twice as big) to every 700 red, and about one platelet (about one fifth the size) for every 10-20 red blood cell. The whole lot is suspended in plasma (about 55% plasma, 45% cells).

Do you know what makes blood move around your body? All the blood in your body is pumped around by one muscle, do you know which muscle that is?

Listen to someone’s heart using a stethoscope, show the children how to find their pulse.

Show model of a heart and talk about the four chambers.

Warning: children who want to skip the dissection should go and colour now.

Show pre-dissected heart and talk about what we can see.

Individual Task:

Children can cut open their hearts, see if they can trace the path that the blood takes.

Try to find the atriums, the ventricles and the valves.


Active Science: get adults to play lungs, heart and rest of the body; the children will be red blood cells, they carry oxygen from lungs, via heart, to body, then carbon dioxide via heart to lungs.


Break for drink and snack, put hearts on the gingerbread men, read I know about Cells.

I wanted to introduce the idea of CPR, and my boys wanted a play. So I wrote a short play for them to put on.
The parts are very uneven, as Baby is much younger than the others!
DR ABC play.


Any children who would like to, take a turn practising CPR on the MiniAnne.
Mini Anne is a wonderfully affordable CPR dummy. You should probably learn CPR separately as the instructional DVD that comes with the dummy is really only about dummy maintenance, and wouldn’t be adequate for anyone unfamiliar with CPR procedures. It is great for practice, though!


Optional Extension:

Take your pulse, then run around for five minutes, take your pulse again, then sit and colour or read quietly for five minutes, and take your pulse again.

Gather together: Work out the averages of our ‘at rest’ pulses, our ‘after running’ pulses and our ‘recovery’ pulses.


What did you notice about the rate of your pulse during the experiment?


Do you want to battle?

Middly’s current favourite game is something called Pokepark 2.
I was watching him play it this morning and a scene caught my eye.


Every time Middly’s character walked up to this giant bird-thing, the giant bird-thing greeted him with: “What do you want? If you want a battle, I might agree to that.”
Middly had the option of clicking ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but, really it’s not a choice.
If he picked ‘no’, the creature grunted “Mmpf” and wandered off. The only way Middly can engage with this bird-thing is to fight it.
And, I thought, hey, I recognise that! I have been that questing Pokémon, walking up, offering a snack, a chat, a hug, only to be met with: “What do you want? If you want a battle, I might agree to that.”
Battles in Pokémon are a test of strength. If you can defeat another Pokémon, then they will respect you, they might even become your friend and help you in the future.
If you lose, the other Pokémon will stalk off in disgust. Though, you can have another go at defeating them later, if you like.
Pokémon value strength above all things. In a world where there’s always another fight, the only friends worth having are the really strong ones.

Using boxes to encourage independence.


My dream is to get to a point where the boys can learn independently. Being able to get on with your own learning, planning when to do it, finding the resources you need: these are the skills that will enable them to be lifelong learners. Eventually, I want the boys to be able to decide what they want to learn, find a way to learn it, and get on with it.
But, for our entire home educating journey so far, we’ve been stuck on step one.
I’ve been working out what interests them, choosing what to learn, finding the resources, then telling them when to get on with it.
This hasn’t been very satisfying for me, as, far from moving towards independent learning, the boys seemed to be getting more and more dependant. They needed to be told which page to turn to. They needed to be handed pencils. They needed me to remind them to look words up in a dictionary. Often, they would claim to be unable to find words in said dictionary.
Nor were the boys satisfied with things. They each have three pieces of work each day. Each piece of work requires about fifteen minutes effort. Yet, they were arguing, sulking, fussing over these pieces of work and frequently taking entire days to complete them.
Nobody was happy.
So, I thought about the problem.
I remembered The Hat System, which solved our problems of choosing activities and teams by writing things on bits of paper and pulling them out of a hat.
I thought about the timetables we use.
The boys like things that are written down. They would far rather do something that I wrote on a list than something that I ask them to do our loud.
So, I decided to replace my verbal reminders with post it notes, and my fetching of school supplies with a box.
We bought special boxes, in an attempt to create a little excitement about the new system. We explained my idea to the boys, and sweetened the deal with talk of all the fun things they would have time for, if they chose to finish ‘school work’ earlier in the day.
Here’s the new plan:
Every night, after the boys are in bed, I put the next day’s workbooks in the boxes. I include pencils, rulers, dictionaries, and anything else they will need. (In the box shown, there’s a bag of pennies for the maths game.)


Then, just like Christmas stockings, I sneak the boxes into the boys’ rooms.
They wake up, open the exciting boxes and – if they choose – they get on with their work.
We’ve just finished week two of the system and, amazingly, fantastically, it works. If they get stuck, they do what they can, and ask us for help over breakfast.
Every day, the boys complete their workbooks before ten in the morning. It’s a glorious start to the day!
We have reached step two of independent learning: provided with equipment, the boys do their work alone.
We have more time and more energy for playing together (I don’t think a day has passed this fortnight without at least one board game). I don’t feel guilty about going out for the day, or taking them out for lunch. We’ve been doing crafts together, science experiments together, and the boys have had more time than ever before to play their computer games.
Even Baby has a box, and I put different activities in it each day:


The children have always loved playing with boxes. And I am starting to see their point. Boxes are fabulous!

Science Club – Friction and Levers


Arrival Craft: make ‘climbing critters’ (paper shapes with two bits of straw and one penny taped to the back, and a long piece of wool threaded through the straws, pull the wool to make the critter ‘climb’ the wool).

I found this craft here.


Demonstration: get the children to rub their hands together, explain that the heat they feel is caused by friction. Friction doesn’t just make your hands feel hot, it also slows things down when they’re moving. If you have enough friction it can stop things moving at all. Do the floating rice bottle trick (this is where you show two bottles of rice, you put a pencil in each one – traditionally, it’s a chopstick, but I found that the edges of a pencil gave a firmer hold – you lift one bottle up just by picking up the pencil, and invite your audience to try with the other bottle, but they find it to be impossible), ask the children if they know the difference between the two bottles. The rice bottle that I can lift with the pencil has much more tightly packed rice in it. Pour rice into bowls to show the different amounts. The tightly packed rice produced so much friction that it’s strong enough to hold the pencil in place and let me lift the bottle up.

Show an example techcard model, demonstrate how doing it up too tightly creates too much friction and stops it working.
I love techcard. I got a pretty good deal on it from Hands On. So, if you are interested in getting some, it’s probably worth shopping around. For this session we used something called Storybook Classpack. But the packs are very flexible!
Friction is not always a good thing. Often, engineers try to reduce the amount of friction, as we will be doing here.
Individual Task: make a model using a very simple lever, smaller children will need a lot of help.


Gather together: show off our models. What we have made is a simple lever, but levers can be used in different ways. Levers are a great way of lifting heavy loads. Make a ruler into a lever, and see how little weights can lift bigger weights if we move the little weights further from the fulcrum.


Break for drink and snack


Active Science: try and set up a line of dominoes, knock down the first one and watch the rest fall, to see how one push can have a lot of effects.


Optional Extension:

  • Testing different car tracks to see how much friction slows a toy car.
  • Littlies can play with toy cars on a mat with various different surfaces.

Science Club – Paper Planes

Flight and air pressure


Arrival Craft: make paper kites.
Eldest found this craft online (here), made a couple of examples at home, then showed the other children how to make them. I was very proud!
The children ran around the hall with them, and the kites flew pretty well.

Demonstration: give out strips of paper, show the children what happens when you blow over the top, then give them another strip and show them what happens when they blow in between the strips.

This happens because of the Bernouli Principle: your breath has less pressure than the still air around the paper, so the paper moves towards that area of low pressure. This is the same principle that makes aeroplanes fly.

How strong is air?
Usually it doesn’t feel very strong, but there are ways we can feel air. Use air cannon to show children how they can feel air.
Hand around an empty syringe (the ones from children’s medicine work fine) and show children how to feel air’s strength under compression by putting their thumb over the end and trying to squeeze the air with the plunger. At a certain point, the air will push back.


Individual Task:

Make paper aeroplanes, have some ready made ones for littlies to colour. Each make one traditional folded dart and one hoop plane using paper and a straw.
Hoop planes are a single straw with two paper hoops attached by sellotape.

Gather together:

See how far the paper aeroplanes fly, is there a particular design feature that seems to make our planes fly well? Work out the average distances flown by the darts and the hoop planes. Which kind of plane won?

Since we have an electric plane launcher, we all had a go with this too. We couldn’t fit the hoop planes in it, but the paper darts shot across the room.


Active Science: Draw a big shape on the ground, using masking tape, like a plane wing, get the children to walk around it in pairs, half around the bottom, half around the top. The top half will have to walk faster in order to meet their partner at the end. That’s how lift is created.


Break for drink and snack, read Dogs Don’t Fly.


Optional Extension:

  • Play with balloon helicopters.