Valentine’s Day Heart…Dissection That Is!

John Here:

Well another Valentine’s Day has rolled around so what better time than now to dissect a heart? We started the Sheep Heart Dissection Lab today in my class. This lab is part of my Cardiovascular System Unit. Sheep hearts are used and the students really like doing this type of hands on lab activities. I also enjoy this unit and particularly this lab very much.


This lab has two different parts and takes the students through the anatomy of the heart. Before beginning the lab we take notes and practice identification to get the students familiar with the terminology they will be using.


The heart above is one of the larger hearts we have had in a while.  Some of the blood vessels are long enough to really give the students a great understanding of heart blood vessel anatomy.

The identification part of this lab is unique and is truly a cooperative/group learning experience. Here’s how it works:

  • The students will use their textbook, notes, phones, etc to identify the parts listed and write down the functions in the proper spaces
  • Then after the students have practiced in their lab groups, the teacher will ask a student at random in the group to identify a part of the heart. After the student has answered, the teacher then chooses another term and asks the next student to identify it. This is done as a group so the students must know all the terms but will only be asked a few of them depending on the size of their lab group (2-3 students). Therefore they will have to make sure everyone in the group knows all the terms.
    • Example:
      • Teacher: “Where is the left atria?”
      • Student 1: points to the left atria
      • Teacher: “Where is the aorta?”
      • Student 2: points to the aorta
      • This continues until the list is finished
    • This can also be done individually if students are absent.
    • For this part of the lab the students are graded together so if a student answers a question incorrectly the whole group gets it wrong. This gives them a strong incentive to teach each other the parts of the heart.

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Only 1 cut is needed to study the heart but it must be done correctly so I go around to each group to show them where to start and finish.  Here you can see the ventricles of a heart that’s been cut correctly.

The second part of this lab is involves short answer questions. Some of the questions depend on using the dissected heart and some do not. A writing assignment can be added to this lab if desired.


What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to get your hands on a “real” heart!

Thanks for looking, let me know what you think!

The Teacher Team

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