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The Gordon School

Curious minds and strong stomachs

Dissecting beef hearts in seventh grade

Seventh grade is deep into their study of human anatomy.

Two weeks ago, a neurosurgeon brought in brains for them to explore.

Today, they had a master class with a cardiologist.

(insert joke about educating minds and heart with equal care)

The students had already studied the heart’s anatomy.

Dr. Sklar built off what they already knew.

Still, the sight—and smell—of a cow’s heart did knock the conversation off track.

The design and operation of a heart is, at the root, an engineering problem.

How does the heart keep the blood flowing in the correct direction? Why would one half of the 
heart need more muscle than the other? Where does the oxygen-depleted blood arrive from? Where does the oxygen-rich blood go first?

Students drifted in and out of the lesson, following the conversation sometimes, and hypnotized by the sight of the raw meat at other moments.

Dr. Sklar led them steadily, with grace and humor.

His skill and experience as a doctor, and as a teacher, was on full display.

As he began to explore a pig heart, and contrast it with the beef heart, Dr. Sklar got a little lost in his work.

Part of the joy of bringing visiting professionals into the classroom is seeing experts do their jobs well.

Another part is the thrill of being in the presence of someone who clearly loves their work.

The class split into small groups, and Dr. Sklar taught stethoscope technique.

Yes, he had students listen before and after jumping jacks.

Another group tried to manually pump 1.4 gallons, as the average heart does every minute.

The third group had the hearts to themselves.

Each student got to explore the slab of muscle at their own pace.

Slowly, carefully, they discovered features for themselves, and shared them with each other.

The wincing, and the gagging, slowed.

For a few minutes, they got lost in the details of this strange machine...

...and experienced some of the playful wonder Dr. Sklar had been trying to share.

flashback to last year's brain dissection in fourth grade

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