Indian Trail Intermediate School hosted Mountian States Health Alliance's "Mega Heart" on display for students in David Nutter's 5-6 grade Health Science class to finish their unit on organs. (Tony Duncan / Johnson City Press)
Students in David Nutter’s health class at Indian Trail Intermediate School got to the heart of the matter this week when learning about the human body.
Nutter pumped up a 12-foot-tall inflatable heart in the school’s gym to help his classes learn about the functions of the vital organ and some of the conditions that can cause it to fail.
“I teach a unit on the organs every quarter, and I always try to end on the heart, because it really ties all of the body’s systems together,” he said Wednesday. “By being able to go inside the heart like blood cells and see the different structures, I feel like the students get a better understanding than they would just looking a diagrams in their textbooks.”
The mega-heart was on loan Tuesday and Wednesday from Mountain States Health Alliance, which uses the larger-than-life-size model for educational events and offers it for medical and pharmaceutical trade shows.
Nutter said he saw the big red beast at a recent event at East Tennessee State University and inquired about its availability.
His students — more than 300 during the model’s two-day stay — walked through each ventricle and inspected the atria looking for information posted on sheets of paper that would later be used on homework and quizzes.
“I think they really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a way to bring the lesson to life for them.”
The novel approach to teaching helped solidify the lesson in fifth-grader Allie Knox’s mind.
“We went into the left atrium and the right atrium, the left ventricle and the right ventricle,” she said. “It made me think of blood cells and how the body works.”
Nutter said the lesson on the heart included common causes of heart disease, like smoking, which leads into the next unit on substance abuse.
“Unhealthy lifestyles lead to a lot of heart problems,” he said. “By showing them the different parts of the heart and how they can be damaged, I’m hoping it helps them to choose active and healthy lifestyles early in life.”
Nutter said his eventual goal is to bring the mega heart back each quarter, until all of the school’s 1,100 students have circulated through its valves.
“As a teacher, I’m always looking for a way to do something different that the students will remember,” he said. “I think this is one of those things.”