Habits of the Heart is what could be called a virtual interactive museum exhibit. While that may sound as though the site has all the appeal of a dusty loincloth clad cave-dwelling mannequin, it’s actually quite a nice site to help introduce the cardiovascular system to students. Using Flash and animated images, the Science Museum of Minnesota has created a site to explore both the respiratory and circulatory systems. As these are both covered in our school’s 6th grade curriculum, I’ve found the site very useful at helping the students to understand how the valves of the heart work as well as establish a good understanding of how the heart keeps the blood flow pumping.
While the respiratory demonstrations aren’t as detailed as the heart animations, they do provide a good introduction for understanding how exercise and other physical exertion affect both systems. The site also includes ready to teach lessons, activities, and several attention-getting science demonstrations. Best of all (though not for the squeamish) the site also provides several short video clips of actual surgeries including a coronary bypass and a complete heart replacement. Not recommended for elementary age students, but many of the free videos would work well in middle or high school science classes.