Heart Rate Mini-Lab Activity for Middle School Science (and a FREEBIE)

Do you struggle with finding activities to accompany your middle school human body systems unit? Well, read on because I've got a treat for you that's also F-R-E-E!!🎉

Teaching about the human body systems to middle schoolers can be challenging, & finding activities that are hands-on can also be nerve wracking. I have a wonderful activity that goes along with the circulatory system; you could also incorporate the respiratory system into this mini-lab as well. 

The purpose of this activity is to show students how their heart rate is affected by physical activity. Students will take their resting heart rate, jog in place for 2 minutes, rest for about 30 minutes, & then take their heart rate after resting. A great discussion can take place about why your heart pumps faster & your breathing rate increases during exercise. The great thing about this activity is you can go as in-depth as your class is capable of. NOTE: This mini-lab is meant to be done AFTER you've taught about the circulatory & respiratory systems so students have the background knowledge of the functions of these 2 systems.

Here are step-by-step instructions as well as tips & tricks to use this in your classroom:

*TIP* I did this activity whole class with me guiding the entire time. I chose to do it this way because I only had 55 minute classes, & I wanted everybody on the same page so to speak. This could also be done as homework & discuss the next day in class.

STEP 1: Read the Passage
    Since I did this activity whole class, I either read the passage aloud or had students read. After reading, you can choose how detailed of a discussion you want to have. I kept it at a minimum because I needed the students' heart rate to come back down as quickly as possible to have time to finish this in one class period.

STEP 2: Start the Activity
    Students locate the pulse either on their neck or their wrist. To be honest, the most amount of time is spent on this. Information on how to find the pulse can be found on the mini-lab sheet. I've also included pictures below to help you in locating your pulse. If a student is stuck & absolutely can't find their pulse, I help them to speed up the process.

STEP 3: Take Resting Heart Rate
    Once students have found their pulse, time them for 30 seconds. Whatever they get is multiplied by 2 since we need BPM (beats per minute). Then students record the BPM on their chart under 'Resting Heart Rate'.

STEP 4: Jog in Place
    Now students will exercise for 2 minutes. I have them jog in place. However, some students have preferred to do jumping jacks, burpees, or a combo of multiple exercises. As long as they are doing something to increase their heart rate and aren't injuring themselves or anyone else I really didn't care what they did. NOTE: I had fun with this and treated the students like athletes, cheering them on, encouraging them, & counting down the time loudly & obnoxiously. After the 2 minutes, students need to QUICKLY find their pulse. I gave them about 15-20 seconds to locate it before I started the timer. Students will take their pulse for 30 seconds & again multiply by 2 and record the data on their chart.

STEP 5: Return to Resting Heart Rate
    Now students need to sit & rest to allow their heart rate to return to normal. This also takes quite a bit of time. During this time, I have students sit down and take notes. They need to be as quiet & sedentary as possible. You could show students a video or even have them do some independent work; anything to keep them seated & quiet. About 10-15 minutes before class ends, have them take their return to resting heart rate. They find their pulse, & you time them for 30 seconds. Then, they multiply by 2 & record the data.

STEP 6: Conclusion
    Once the activity is complete, discuss what happened with their circulatory & respiratory systems during & after exercise. During exercise, your heart rate & breathing rate increase to supply your muscles with the oxygen they need to keep up with the physical activity. Your breathing quickens to bring in oxygen faster because the muscles need more since they're working harder. Your heart rate increases since blood delivers oxygen to the body & your muscles need more oxygen since you're using them more. The opposite happens after exercise. You can make this explanation as simple or complex as you need to for the level of your classes.

I hope you use this fun activity with your middle schoolers so they can see & feel what happens to the circulatory system during & after exercise. Click here to grab the heart rate mini-lab activity.

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