Lesson Body Circulation

Quick Look

Grade Level: 7 (6-8)

Time Required: 45 minutes

Lesson Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Biology, Life Science, Science and Technology

Diagram shows arteries, veins and heart of the human circulatory system superimposed on the body of a girl.
Students learn about the circulatory system
Copyright © GirlsHealth.gov http://www.4girls.gov/body/circulatory.jpg


Students are introduced to the circulatory system, the heart, and blood flow in the human body. Through guided pre-reading, during-reading and post-reading activities, students learn about the circulatory system's parts, functions and disorders, as well as engineering medical solutions. By cultivating literacy practices as presented in this lesson, students can improve their scientific and technological literacy.

Engineering Connection

Biomedical, mechanical and electrical engineers work with doctors to find engineering solutions to problems affecting the human body and the circulatory system. Engineers use their knowledge of fluid flow and biomechanics to create invasive and non-invasive methods and devices that alleviate problems, while doctors combine their knowledge of the human body and patient care to make sure engineered solutions are feasible and functional. Engineered medical devices include heart pumps, artificial hearts, replacement valves and diagnostic tools.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Define the functions and parts of the circulatory system.
  • Describe ways engineers are involved with the circulatory system.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Advances and innovations in medical technologies are used to improve healthcare. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Develop, communicate, and justify an evidence-based scientific explanation regarding the functions and interactions of the human body (Grade 7) More Details

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Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/cub_biomed_lesson03] to print or download.


(In advance, make copies of the attached Pre/During/After Reading Worksheet and Introduction to the Circulatory System Reading, enough for one per student.)

What is a circulatory system? What is the human circulatory system? What do you know about it? Today we're going to learn all about the human circulatory system. Let's start by having you each read ten statements about our circulatory system and indicate whether you agree or disagree with them. (Hand out to each student the Pre/During/After Reading Worksheet. Give students a few minutes to complete the pre-reading table on page one. This pre-reading activity prepares students for the next step, reading the text.)

Now, I want you each to read this Introduction to the Circulatory System text. As you read, keep the second page of your worksheet handy so you can create a reading log. This is your chance to respond to certain pieces of the text, to note if they are interesting, confusing, important, or if you want to know more about the topic, or have a comment. Look at the example provided in the first row. Think about what you are reading and provide enough responses to fill the chart. Use the codes to indicate the nature of your response. For example, use an exclamation point for interesting, a question mark for confusing, a capital I for important/main point and a capital W for if you want to know more. (Give students 20 minutes to read and create their reading logs. The reading logs prepare students for the next step: a literature circle discussion.)

Everyone is finished? Okay, that was good. Everyone stand up. Stretch your arms to the sky. Bend to touch your toes. Is your heart beating? Is there any circulation in your body? Can you feel the oxygen reaching the capillaries in your toes? Are you alive?

Now, I'm going to divide the class into groups, we'll call them "literature circles." (To help continue the thinking process after reading the text, organize students into literature circles to discuss all aspects of the reading. Depending on the class, organize student groups by reading level, cooperative groups or randomly. Suggested group size: four students each.)

In your literature circle, discuss what was hard, confusing, interesting, unclear, conflicting, questionable, or relevant about what you have just read. Refer to your reading log for discussion topics to bring up with the group. Refer to page one of your worksheet for suggested "question-clarify-connect" phrases that may help get the conversation going. (Give students10 minutes for discussion with their literature circles. Provide guidance, as necessary.)

What did we learn about our circulatory system in this reading, and in our literature circles? What do you know about the human body conditions that lead to heart attacks and strokes? Do you know anyone with these medical conditions? If we were biomedical engineers, what might we design to help unclog arteries and unblock blood vessels? Students should then extend their learning to complete the Clearing a Path to the Heart activity where they work as biomedical engineers to design and prototype devices to help counteract clogged arteries. 

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

See the attached Introduction to the Circulatory System Reading.

Associated Activities

Lesson Closure

Who in this room has a circulatory system? (Include any pets in the room.) Name for me some of the parts of the human circulatory system. (Answer: Heart, blood vessels, arteries, veins, capillaries, blood, platelets, etc., as described in the Introductory to Circulatory System Reading.) And what functions do those parts perform? (Answer: See Introductory to Circulatory System Reading.)

The circulatory system is perhaps the most important system in the body. When all these parts work together, what important functions do they perform as a whole? (Answer: Nutrition, respiration, waste removal.) Understanding the circulatory system's functions, needs and effects are imperative to keeping our bodies healthy as we age.

A drawing shows a cross-section of a person's chest with a pacemaker with wires with electrodes inserted into the right atrium and ventricle of the heart through a vein in the upper chest. A detail drawing shows the electrode electrically stimulating the heart muscle.
An embedded pacemaker treats heart rhythms that are too slow, fast or irregular, relieving fatigue and fainting symptoms, so people can lead their normal lives.
Copyright © National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health & Human Services http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pace/pace_all.html

So what can go wrong with a person's circulatory system? (Answers: It can be damaged by injury or illness, such as arteriosclerosis, hypertension [high blood pressure], heart attack, stroke, kidney failure.) Engineers work with doctors to come up with solutions to issues affecting the circulatory system. What are some of the ways engineers are involved with the circulatory system? (Answer: They design treatment methods, and devices such as catheters and stents that are used to re-open blocked blood vessels, or pacemakers to regulate an abnormal heart rhythm, to prolong peoples' lives.)


artery: A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart.

bioengineering: The use of artificial tissues, organs or organ components to replace damaged or absent parts of the body, such as artificial limbs and heart pacemakers. Source: The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English, http://encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-bioengineering.html

biomedical engineer: A person who blends traditional engineering techniques with the biological sciences and medicine to improve the quality of human health and life. Biomedical engineers design artificial body parts, medical devices, diagnostic tools, and medical treatment methods.

capillary: An extremely tiny blood vessel that connects the arteries and the veins. These vessels deliver oxygen to tissues.

engineer: A person who applies his/her understanding of science and math to creating things for the benefit of humanity and our world.

heart: A hollow, muscular organ that pumps blood.

vein: A blood vessel that returns blood to the heart.


Pre-Lesson Assessment

Pre-Reading Statements: During the Introduction/Motivation portion of the lesson, have students complete the pre-reading table on page one of the Pre/During/After Reading Worksheet. Ask them to agree or disagree with each statement.

Post-Introduction Assessment

Literature Circle Questions/Answers: As students read the assigned text, guide them to respond to the text by creating reading logs on page two of the Pre/During/After Reading Worksheet. In their literature circle, students should be asking and answering questions, many of which come from their own reading log notes. If time allows, have students go back and review their pre-reading statement answers, correcting as necessary, given their new knowledge.

Scenario/Question: Provide students with the following scenario/question to which they should write a brief and clear description, accurately using circulatory system terms:

  • You are a molecule of blood in the circulatory system. Describe in detail what happens to you and your different parts starting from anywhere in the body and ending at that same location. When you write your description, use the terms that we have just learned and discussed. The description must be detailed enough so that if you were to give it to someone else in the class, they could read the description and move this blood molecule accurately through a circulatory system diagram.

Lesson Summary Assessment

Quick Jeopardy: Provide student teams with the answers provided in the attached Quick Jeopardy Assessment, to which they must come up with the corresponding questions. Note that some of the subject matter is drawn from this lesson and the rest is drawn from its associated activity.

Lesson Extension Activities

Brain Surgery and Engineering!: Read aloud the attached Life on the Cutting Edge article to the class or have the students read it on their own. This reading talks about a civil engineer who has gone on to develop cutting edge technology for use in surgery. Challenge students to think about the advantages of an engineering degree and engineering design experience applied to the medical fields. How might engineers help solve other medical problems related to the circulatory system, such as heart disease and high blood pressure?

Artificial Heart Design Challenge: Have students use their knowledge of the human heart to create a new heart with slight variations in anatomical structure by completing Jeff Dodd's Heart Engineering. The activity premise is the existence of an alien nation that suffers from hearts that fail early in their lives. Students are asked to design artificial hearts to help the aliens extend their life expectancy. They make model artificial hearts using simple materials, mostly Play Doh and pipe cleaners. See the activity described at the National Health Museum (Access Excellence – the site for health & bioscience teachers and learners) website: http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/ATG/data/released/0495-JeffDodds/

Research Assignment: Assign pairs of students to research specific engineered medical products for the circulatory system. Begin by finding images with an Internet browser using these keywords: heart pump, artificial heart, pacemaker, artificial heart valve, defibrillator, heart ultrasound, coronary stent, stent delivery platform, heart diagnosis, CT scanner, vascular closure device, venous access, cardiovascular stress test, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, electrophysiology study. Have students write a page summary describing the medically helpful aspect of their engineering device or technology, along with a photograph or drawing, and report back to the class.

Additional Multimedia Support

A great resource: The World Health Organization's Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke: http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/resources/atlas/en/index.html

New Device Helping Babies with Heart Problems, a November 2007 story by Ed Yeates about the smallest artificial heart pump in the smallest patient ever (at the time). See the story and photos at the KSL Newsradio website: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=2119242.

Learn about the latest in medical engineering at Medgadget, the internet journal of emerging medical technologies, at: http://www.medgadget.com/


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Deaths from Coronary Heart Disease, Cardiovascular Diseases. The Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke, World Health Organization. Accessed December 10, 2008. http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/en/cvd_atlas_14_deathHD.pdf

Johnson, Jill Caton and Lisa Martin-Hansen. Improving Science Reading Comprehension. Science Scope, 28(6), March 2005, pp.12-15.

Nugent,Tom. Life on the Cutting Edge. Coloradan, September 2007, pg 12. (One-page story about brain surgeon Joshua Kouri who uses his engineering skills to develop innovative surgical methods.) Accessed December 10, 2008. http://www.cualum.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/coloradan/2007_09/kouri.pdf

Risk Factors, Cardiovascular Diseases. The Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke, World Health Organization. Accessed December 10, 2008. http://www.who.int/entity/cardiovascular_diseases/en/cvd_atlas_03_risk_factors.pdf

What Is a Pacemaker? Diseases and Conditions Index, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health & Human Services. Accessed December 10, 2008. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pace/pace_all.html


© 2007 by Regents of the University of Colorado.


Jay Shah; Todd Curtis; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise W. Carlson

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: May 27, 2019

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