Heart Dissections with Year 6 at Holme Valley Primary School.

Being a STEM (Science,Technology,Engineering and Mathematics) ambassador was one of the main reasons we started Adventure Science. The opportunity to use our experience and knowledge to promote subjects that we have spent a lifetime learning and exploring, is a real honour. We visit schools and institutions as part of our local STEM volunteer service and use this to help develop our delivery of courses to relevant age groups.

We are both STEM ambassadors and feel strongly about offering opportunities to school children to enhance their education and to show what can be achieved within these subjects. As a result, we each had an event to attend last Thursday, whilst Rachel went to represent us at the Women in STEAM event in Corby, I attended Holme Valley Primary school in Lincolnshire to present and conduct a heart dissection with their year six students.

Although it meant an early start and a long drive, it was well worth the time and effort. I was welcomed by the teachers of the school whose enthusiasm and drive to offer learning experiences to their students was clear and extremely infectious.

I was to dissect two pigs hearts’ over consecutive hour lessons to the year six students as an introduction to their Circulatory System module. They had only just begun to study the module and I was to be the ‘baptism by dissection’ into the amazing world of the heart. Exploring this incredible organ in such a 3-dimensional and ‘real’ method is why heart dissection is such a great learning tool although sadly underused in mainstream education.

My initial introduction to the school was to witness a dance and fitness regime performed by the whole school before they came in after lunch time. It was a lively, happy and inspirational event to watch and one that I don’t think I would ever tire of. All the staff were outside with the children and it was lead by volunteers. Such an incredible way to switch back on to an afternoon of learning and to celebrate their school and themselves. I could not help smiling along with everyone.

Both sessions started with a brief introduction and informal learning assessment and it was clear these students had a basic understanding of the ‘anatomy and physiology’ of the heart and the questions this led to were incredible. They were genuinely interested in learning and absorbed all the information presented to them like little sponges! They wanted to hear how this basic science related to my career and how it related to their own individual health and wellbeing. They asked questions about heart transplants and were curious about blood cells. They wanted to know about bone marrow. They asked questions that as a GP, I would love to have the opportunity to answer for any 11 year old.

Then, when we showed them the heart, their interest, if possible, was peaked even further. They wanted to know everything and could not wait to see what each individual cut into the heart muscle would show. They were able to physically feel the difference between the left ventricle and right ventricle and compare them to the walls of the corresponding atria. They identified the aorta and pulmonary vein and arteries and were able to feel the differences between the walls that give these transport systems their structure and function. Every student listened intently, and couldn’t wait put the medical gloves on and get ‘hands on’, even the teachers got stuck in. By the end of the day, most members of staff had been in to visit – it was such an encouraging environment for me and a real pleasure to be part of.

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I have always found that allowing children of any age to ask a doctor questions that they have always wanted to ask but have never had the opportunity to is a great foundation for learning. There is no such thing as a stupid question and it sometimes only takes one person asks before it becomes apparent that they will all want to know the answer. These students all respected each other and listened, there was no fear or embarrassment to ask questions and they all learned from each other.

I left the school with an overriding feeling of it being a safe and inclusive environment where learning was encouraged in such a way that every moment of the day was a development opportunity.

As the saying goes; “Everyday is a School Day”, and at Adventure Science, we believe that however old you are or experienced you are, you never stop learning or experiencing new things. It is fair to say I learned so much from those incredible students and their school. It was one to those teaching days that was sad to have to end.

I would like to thank the staff ad students of Holme Valley Primary School for such an inspirational day.

We look forward to having the Year 6 Students as guest bloggers over the next few months.

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