Getting Fourth-Graders Excited About the Cardiovascular System (Lead PI: Patricia Halpin)

Getting Fourth-Graders Excited about the Cardiovascular System
Students Reached:37 fourth grade students
Lead Researcher:    Dr. Patricia Halpin, the University of New Hampshire
Lead Teacher:Ms. Heather Cantagallo, Sunapee Central Elementary School  

Dr. Patricia Halpin, of the University of New Hampshire, and Ms. Heather Cantagallo, of Sunapee Central Elementary School, designed in-class activities for fourth grade students. The activities were held in conjunction with the American Physiological Society’s Physiology Understanding (PhUn) week.

Dr. Halpin visited 37 fourth grade students at Sunapee Central Elementary School over three days. On the first day, Dr. Halpin explained how the respiratory and cardiovascular systems interact and what it means to measure one’s breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Ms. Cantagallo split the students into pairs and each student took these measurements for their partner. Teachers recorded the data, and Dr. Halpin introduced the scientific method. As a class they then designed an experiment. Students recorded their data in their lab report sheets and developed a hypothesis to test the next day. The class hypothesized that exercise would make heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure go up, and wrote a materials and methods section for the second day experiment.

As their experiment, students took turns running laps around the playground for five minutes, then measured their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. Dr. Halpin plotted all their data, and on their third day students went through each data set. They identified the mean, median, and mode of the data, concepts which align with the fourth grade math curriculum, and also identified and explain outliers. They were given copies of their data for their lab reports, then wrote their own conclusion section and submitted the report to their teachers.

Students took pre and post tests demonstrating that they learned the material, and all students did well with their laboratory reports. Dr. Halpin also taught students about the differences between being a physiologist and a medical doctor and the educational paths for those careers.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase wrist blood pressure and heart rate monitors for the students, and these monitors have been used in future iterations of this program. Dr. Halpin presented this program at the ASBMB Annual Meeting in 2015, you can see the slides from her talk here.


Left: Dr. Halpin teaching a student to use the blood pressure and heart rate monitor
Right: Students collecting the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate of their partners before and after running.