Museum of Science and Industry

What Goes Around Comes Around

Create a traveling circulatory system to learn how blood flow and nutrient exchange happens throughout the body.

What You'll Need

Per Class:
48 poker chips (12 blue, 12 red, 12 green, 12 yellow)
Black permanent marker
10 5" x 8" index cards
Hole punch

What to Do

Set up by using the black marker to write these labels on the poker chips: CO2 for carbon dioxide on blue chips; O2 for oxygen on red chips; F for food on green chips; and W for waste on yellow chips. Create 10 signs that represent body parts by writing these labels: one sign each saying lungs, heart/right side, heart/left side, small intestine, kidneys; two signs saying cells; and three signs saying red blood cells. Make the index cards into signs by punching two holes and attaching string so they can be worn around the neck.

Assign students parts by distributing the index card signs. Stage them in a circle as follows:
Heart/right side is first. This is the starting point for your circut.
Lungs are a short distance away. Give this student the red "O2" oxygen chips.
Heart/left side is a short distance past the lungs.
Small intestine is further away. Give this student the green "F" food chips.
Cells are past the small intestine. Give these students the yellow "W" waste chips and blue "CO2" carbon dioxide chips.
Kidneys are past the cells, next to the heart/right side, thus completing the circle.

Simulate the circulatory system by having the three red blood cells students move like this:
1. Start at the heart/right side and move clockwise around the circle. Red blood cells are gently pushed out of the heart/right side to the lungs.
2. Pick up a red oxygen chip from the lungs. Red blood cells are gently pushed out of the heart/left side to the small intestine.
3. Pick up a green food chip from the small intestine.
4. Trade the food and oxygen chips in the cells for waste and carbon dioxide chips. (Give food and oxygen chips to the cells, and pick up waste and carbon dioxide chips from the cells.)
5. Move to the kidneys, where the kidneys collect waste chips.
6. Re-enter the heart/right side and travel to the lungs.
7. Exchange a carbon dioxide chip for an oxygen chip in the lungs.

Continue circulation for several circuits so students understand the function of each organ. Change roles and / or allow other students to participate.

What's Happening?

By mimicking the body's circulation, students will see that it serves as a transport system for food/nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide and waste. Throughout the circulatory system, cells exchange carbon dioxide and waste for oxygen and nutrients.

Museum Hours
  • Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas
More Information

Museum Location
Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
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