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Hands-on-Science - Dissecting a heart

The story was out in the dining hall at lunchtime - even girls in Year 10 were excited, remembering times past, when it had been their turn. Today was Year 6 Heart Dissection Day! With ten minutes to go, over 40 Year 6 girls were gathering and giggling in the classroom. Scientific curiosity and squeamishness could be heard in equal measure in their excited chatter. Then Mr Hayward walked in, put on his lab coat, switched on his camera and began. 

On the screen, everyone saw the heart in detail. Those girls closest to the action on the front rows could also smell it. 

Eww!’ said some. 

“It’s just a piece of meat. It smells like meat. It looks like meat. It’s from the local butcher’s, waste material, put to good use in the classroom. It’s the iron in the blood that smells. The iron makes it red. If you went to Mars, the red planet, it would probably smell this way, too.” Mr Hayward was off, and the girls were hooked. 

Out came the scalpel, sharp and precise, the right tool for the job. The first incision was coupled with the first question - what chamber comes first? Having studied parts of the heart previously, the girls were ready with their answers. Atrium. There it was, just like on the playdoh models the girls made earlier in the week; but this time it was real. 

Tugging on the valves - the heart strings - was fascinating. What do they feel like? Millie prodded them with a probe. ‘They’re very strong!’ Imagine - a heart can keep going, pumping every second, for 90 years or more. No wonder the valves are strong!

Girls used the dissection tools to navigate the aorta, those who wanted to, getting closer to the action - and those who didn’t, hanging back; this was an optional lunchtime activity. Cutting through the valves, we could hear them ping, like untuned guitar strings. As the heart opened up, the ventricles became clear. Flattened out, it looked like the pictures in the textbook, and the girls were intrigued to recognise what they saw. 

Where would a pacemaker go?’ asked Emilia. 

Ah,’ said Mr Hayward, ‘I’m not sure, but let’s find out together.’ 

The hands-on science journey has begun. Many of our Year 6 girls go on to join Dissection Club in the Senior School, currently the most popular lunchtime activity in Year 7. 

To find out more about why we think these hands-on experiences are so important for our pupils, come along to one of our upcoming visiting events. Register via the button below! 

Register now

Date Posted: 3 October, 2022

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