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Monday, August 15, 2011



Funny when you are talking to someone and bring up something you did and then realize that the person never knew it! I was telling a friend of mine that while teaching school, I had to also teach science. Taught second grade for a long time and in grade school, teachers have to teach every subject. Loved all of them but especially science for to me a lot of it was learning hands on and so I took my belief and transferred it to my teaching. And I told her that I got a heart every year--a real one but one from a hog.

Every year while studying science, my students read from their books but I took them farther by having some students lie down on a big piece of bulletin board paper; others were assigned to draw around their body shapes with a marker. And then groups of students would draw the body organs [while looking  at their textbooks] and color them. Not only did they learn this way but had fun too.

So when it came time to teach about the human heart, I got a brainstorm and went to a local “sausage” company here in town and asked if I could have a hog heart. I had never seen one in my life prior to this first trip. Saw it all right and was amazed at how similar it was to the human heart—so similar that I had to sign papers that I would not use it for a transplant nor give it away. Shocked me at first that I had to sign those papers but in retropsect, I can see the legality of having to do that.

Off I went with a hog heart packed in ice in a container sitting beside me as I drove back home and the feeling was kind of weird to have that thing beside me. Had to tell my sons at that time not to touch it. When I took it to school, I kept the container closed until it was time for science in the afternoon.

Told my students what I had and put on rubber gloves and took out the hog heart and held it up for all to see. Some students gagged while others were sitting there in utter amazement or shock! Using my hands, I showed them the auricles and ventricles—the very same four chambers that we have in our hearts. Took a while but eventualy a lot of the wanted to touch it and I let them; others wanted to put their fingers in the auricles and ventricles and they were allowed.

The biggest shock to all of them was that the hog heart was not shaped like a valentine heart. Nope!  Some similarity but definitely not what they thought.

I sent one student up to a fifth grade teacher and had him ask her if she’d like to have the heart to discect and yes she did want it. And so the next day [the heart was packed in ice,] the fifth graders got the hog heart to discect and learn from their teacher. Of course someone in the fifth grade would bring down the discected heart to show my students and they either liked seeing it or turned their heads.

This process continued for many years with my going to get a hog heart and then doing the above with students for many years. To me and hopefully to them, it was a real learning experience and one that many never forgot. I sure didn’t.  Should you be a teacher and are reading this, have a heart! You’ll be surprised at what is learned from the real thing by your students. But be prepared for gags and wonderment and buy lots of those disposable plastic gloves!

Sherry Hill

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