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The Mysterious Human Heart The Mysterious Human Heart border=
A Series by David Grubin


(for upper-level high school biology and health classes)

Before showing students the complete video (or selected clip) of THE SILENT KILLER, review their knowledge of heart anatomy and function. Be sure to review the functions of the ventricles, atria, and arteries (available through the Tour of the Heart and Healthy Heart Guide on this site). Next have students view the video and discuss each of the accompanying discussion questions. Bring the students' focus to the science of the Framingham Heart Study. How was it different from the controlled experiments that are normally studied in science classes? After the whole class discussion, divide the class into smaller groups of three to five students each. Instruct the students that they will be planning and carrying out their own scaled-down versions of scientific studies similar to the Framingham Heart Study. You may provide the groups with study questions such as the examples below or allow the groups to come up with their own questions.

Example study questions:
  • Do diet and exercise affect academic performance? Does this vary with age or gender?
  • How do sleeping habits affect academic performance?
  • How do extracurricular activities and jobs affect academic performance?
Within their groups, the students should brainstorm a list of the types of information they will need and ways to collect it that will help to answer their questions. Things they should consider include:
  • demographic information about their participants (age, gender, ethnicity?)
  • how often they'll be collecting data
  • what kind of data they can use to assess academic performance (should they develop their own set of tests or use some existing assessment?)
  • where they will find participants, and how they will keep their participants interested and truthful
  • how they will organize their data as they collect it
  • if they will need parental consent forms from participants
  • how they will ensure the participants' privacy
The teacher's role during this planning activity is to help the students set realistic expectations. Does your school district allow for interschool participation? Would the high school students have access to middle and/or elementary school participants? Once the groups have refined their study plans, allow them time to complete their surveys over a semester- or even year-long course (if it's practical). If it is not possible to allow data collection for an entire semester or school year, modify the data collection to fit within your time frame. Perhaps have weekly checkpoints to see that students are indeed able to collect data from their study groups. After a period of at least six to ten weeks, the students should have collected enough information to be able to look for trends or patterns and get a sense of how complicated long term, multi-data investigations can be. Be sure to provide a reasonable deadline, so that they will have time to analyze their collected data and prepare a report and/or presentation of their findings. Their final reports should be careful to point out patterns and possible correlations, and to include new questions generated by their studies. They probably will NOT be able to identify a true cause-and-effect relationship. Their final presentations should include a self-evaluation of the value of this type of study, what challenges their group faced, and how they might improve on their studies.
More Lesson Plans

Funding is provided by Medtronic, AstraZeneca, and Mars, Incorporated - makers of CocoaVia. Additional funding is provided by the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation. A co-production of David Grubin Productions, Thirteen/WNET New York and WETA Washington, D.C.
Medtronic AsrtaZeneca MARS Thirteen/WNET NEW YORK