February brings us both Valentine's Day and heart awareness month. That's two great reasons to take a closer look at the hard-working muscle thump-thump-thumping in your chest!
Here's a subject that will really get your blood pumping: the human heart. Did you know that an electric current generated by your body causes your heart to contract over and over again—2.5 billion times during the average life span? This contracting motion keeps your oxygen-rich blood circulating to every corner of your body.
Matters of the Heart
While Valentine's Day might have you thinking about hearts of the sweet variety, there are many interesting reasons to learn about the science of your own heart. We've gathered a few ideas below to get you started.
- Heart Health: How Does Heart Rate Change with Exercise?: you may have heard that exercise is good for your heart, but what type of exercise? This science project lets you discover how hard your heart works when performing a variety of different activities. (A family-friendly adaptation of this project is also available!)
- Make Your Own Stethoscope: create a stethoscope with funnels and a paper towel tube! Then, switch up the tubing to explore what sorts of materials best amplify the sound of a beating heart. (Both a family-friendly version and a classroom activity are available!)
- Heart Rate Recovery Times: running certainly will make your heart beat fast, but how long does it take to get back to normal? Investigate whether or not a faster recovery time indicates a healthier body. (A family-friendly version of this experiment is available!)
- Caffeine and Heart Rate: A Pharmacological Study Using Daphnia magna: besides exercise, what can change your heart rate? With the help of water fleas (a tiny crustacean), explore the effect of caffeine on your body.
Ending on a Sweet Note
Because chocolate and Valentine's Day go hand-in-hand, here are two projects related to the science of sweets:
- Temper, Temper, Temper! The Science of Tempering Chocolate *: to make chocolate treats as beautiful as they are delicious, chocolatiers must temper their chocolate. In this tasty experiment, find out for yourself how raising chocolate to different temperatures changes its appearance or texture.
- M&M (or Conversation Heart) Math: this fun science Project Idea introduces kids to statistics using bags of M&Ms. In honor of Valentine's Day, you might substitute boxes of conversation hearts instead! (To get inspired, read about one family's experience with candy counting and math.)
Show Your Heart Some Love
Your heart is an amazing part of your body, so keep it healthy by exercising, eating right, and not smoking. It will pay off in spades!