How to learn with a stethoscope and a stopwatch.

The Littman Classic II SE Stethoscope

Learning Resources Simple Stopwatch

The first time I heard my heart beat through a stethoscope brought an awareness of my own body and life to me. Suddenly, the fact that the heart pumps blood throughout my body turned from an abstract idea to a real, live whooshing and sucking sound. When learning with my kids, I scour my memory for those little ah-ha moments in the child in me learned something profound.

Cachey Mama’s invitation to her Wishlist Wednesday gave me the perfect excuse to daydream about two items I’ve wanted for a long, long time. Since some of our learning goals for the year require meausurement and experimentation, I dream of a stopwatch and a stethoscope. There are so many ways to use these two tools, together and individually, to make comparisons and study relationships. These comparisons are best illustrated on paper by charts and graphs, one of Max’s favorite hobbies.

Max can use the stopwatch to compare his pulse to that of his sisters. Or that of his friends and neighbors. He can keep an ongoing chart measuring his heartbeat after eating, after bathing, after playing, after dancing, and even after getting upset. He can find an average for his resting heart-rate. He can explore averages across the spectrum of activities. What is the recovery period (the time it takes the heart to get back to resting beat after exercise)?

We could explore frequency in other creatures by using the stopwatch and picking a given amount of time to observe the dog and see how often he scratches, growls, barks, or sits in a 7 minute period. Then we could graph this. We could try again at a different time of day and see if our results differed. If they did, then we would try the entire experiment again the next day to see if we could discover any persistent patterns that might suggest relationships between time of day and frequency of particular behaviors.

What better way to spend time waiting in grocery lines or at large events than asking people nearby to be part of an ongoing average resting heartrate experiment? There are so many ways and so many contexts in which these two tools could help us learn about our world and how it works.

Other experiments and explorations might include:

There’s no way to predict the relationships and comparisons Max and Micah would discover with two simple tools.

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