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    IBDP Biology: A Journey into Cardiac Function


    13 Nov, 2023

    10 : 30

    • Following in the footsteps of Greek philosopher Galen, Renaissance genius, Leonardo Da Vinci and 17th Century medic, William Harvey, Year 13 IBDP students this week, in their equal “refusal to accept doctrines without evidence”, set out to explore the features of the mammalian circulatory system and its relationship to cardiac function.


      While the intricacies of blood circulation are no longer shadowed beneath philosophical thought or mystery, for learners to fully appreciate how the heart works, features of circulatory organs and tissues must be properly observed and investigated.


      Having assessed the procedure for risks and hazards students, carefully cut back the muscular walls and inner septum of a pig’s heart, to reveal the four chambers, major blood vessels, nerve, and valve tissues. The atria toward the top and ventricles towards the bottom of the organ, were easily identifiable. The main artery (aorta) and the atrioventricular valves, which prevent back-flow of blood between the chambers, could also be clearly observed. Veins which drain blood back to the heart, were absent in the working specimens since these are usually cut-through when the organ is removed. Students noted important anatomical features, and the nature of the heart as a pump was easily noted in structure and the way water, filling the lower ventricles, could be squeezed out through the aorta, when activating the muscular left ventricular wall by hand.


      When asked to assess their learning experience, students noted the importance of visualizing the true form and function of these organs, especially when learning to recognize them from schematic representations in academic texts or exam papers. They were especially pleased to observe the atrioventricular valves, which are very much over-simplified in drawings.


      Our biology students with their teacher as partner and facilitator creatively and collaborativey constructed knowledge and understanding of the heart. In completing this activity, students earned new perspectives from which to appreciate their understandings. The precision required of surgeons, for example, and the absolute necessity for blood vessels to be clear of obstruction, were particularly well-noted.


      Similarly, to Da Vinci’s words about the structure of the foot, we agree that the heart too, is a ‘masterpiece of engineering and a work of art’!