Functioning Heart: STEM Project for Kids




Introduction: Functioning Heart: STEM Project for Kids

This project is a fun STEM-based activity for younger students (4th to 5th grade) to learn how blood flows through the heart. This project involves assembly and execution. This activity can be used in a science class for lessons involving anatomy and can also be used in technology class when talking about the assembly of parts and how they work together.


STELs are a way of better understanding technology and how to teach it. Technology and engineering are a large field that has many subdisciplines. STELs provide an effective base for preparing individuals to work in these fields. There are three levels of STELs:

Core Disciplinary Standards

  • Represent information, ideas, and processes that are common to all context areas
  • Meant to encompass the broad areas of technological activity in which humans are engaged


  • Describe universal practices and dispositions that can be applied to both the core standards and contexts


  • 8 technology content areas

There are 8 core disciplinary standards for STELs. The one that I will be focusing on today is:

Standard 8: Applying, Maintaining, and Assessing Technological Products and Systems

In this standard, students in grades 3 through 5 will learn more about products and systems and how they work. At this level, students will be able to deconstruct and analyze a product and reconstruct it to better understand technological systems. This project takes a major organ in the body and shows the student how each part works. We will focus on two parts of the heart, the ventricle and the atrium (See Image). The atrium is the chambers that fill with the blood returning to the heart from the body and the lungs. The heart has a left and right atrium. The ventricle is the two chambers located at the bottom of the heart. Its job is to give blood back to the body and lungs.

There are 8 Technology and Engineering practices. The ones that will be explored today are:

Making and Doing

This is the act of designing, modeling, building, and using technological products and systems. We will learn how to model and then build a functioning heart.

Critical Thinking

This is questioning, reasoning, and logically thinking in the process of making informed decisions. Students will be able to think deeper about how the heart works and the functions of each part


This refers to the positive view in which opportunities can be found in every challenge. Students will be able to learn about the body in a fun way. This will give them a positive outlook on the way the heart operates and why it is one of the most important organs in the body.

Technology and Engineering Contexts

Medical and Heath-Related Technologies

Within this field is a wide range of subdivisions that work to push forwards the medical fields. Understanding how organs work is a big part of that.

Image: Zhurakovskyi, Vitalii. “Human Heart Anatomy.” Dreamstime, 25 June 2018

Step 1: Supplies Needed

  • 3x bottles (1 liter) with caps and labels removed
  • 4x bendy straws
  • 6 cups of water
  • food coloring
  • tape
  • modeling clay or play dough
  • drill (or something sharp to make a hole in the caps)

Step 2: Poke Holes in the Caps

We will start by taking two bottle caps. The third bottle cap can be used as a backup. Take one bottle cap and make a hole through it using the drill or another sharp object. This hole needs to be big enough for the straw to go through. Take the second cap and drill two holes roughly the same size as the first cap.

Step 3: Grab Your Water

In this video, I show how I grabbed 3 cups of water. I would later need to grab more water ( 3 cups) for the other bottle. I then added food coloring for a cool "blood" effect.

Step 4: Bend Straws

Next, take the straws and create a 90-degree angle. You create this by sliding one straw into another straw. Secure the straws by taping them together. Repeat this with the other set of straws.

Step 5: Add Water to the Bottles

In this video I added the water to the bottles.

Step 6: Insert Straws Into Bottles

In this video I added the straws into the holes we made on the caps of the bottles.

Step 7: Add Clay

In this video I added the clay to the spaces of the caps where there was open space around the holes.

Step 8: Final Product

In these videos, I show how the project would function. The first bottle acts as the atrium of the heart, the second bottle is the ventricle, and the third bottle can represent either the lungs or the body. Our fingers function as the valves of the heart. To add "blood" back to the ventricle (middle bottle) simply squeeze the body (third bottle).

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    1 year ago

    This is awesome! I always adore seeing things that combine medicine with engineering, especially when they are aimed at young scientists. Thank you for sharing this!