STEAM Connections: Build a Functioning Heart

Have you ever listened to your pulse? That’s the sound of your heart doing its job. Learn how in this STEAM Connection.

This experiment focuses on an area of medicine/health science called Cardiology or the study of the heart. Our heart model will recreate how the heart pumps blood to the lungs and/or the body.

Watch the full video below, and read on below for the supply list and step-by-step instructions.

The heart is made up of four chambers:

  • The top two chambers, the left atrium and the right atrium, receive the blood that enters the heart
  • The bottom two chambers, the left ventricle and the right ventricle, pump blood out of the heart

The valves in your heart are flaps that prevent blood from flowing backward. These are especially important in creating a one-way route for blood to flow through the heart and back into the body.

In this activity, we are going to build a functioning heart model using items from around the house. Then, we will use our simple heart model to mimic how the heart pumps blood to the body. Watch our experiment video below, and continue scrolling for the supply list and step-by-step instructions:

STEAM Connections

Science: biology, anatomy

Math: measurement

  • 3 water bottles with caps, labels removed  
  • 4 bendy straws
  • 3 cups of water
  • Red food coloring
  • Pitcher or large bowl
  • Tape
  • Modeling clay or play dough
  • Scissors (or other sharp tool to make holes in the caps)

  1. First, make the blood: Fill a pitcher with water; add 7-10 drops of red food coloring; mix
  2. On one bottle cap, use scissors to cut two holes. With a pencil, make the holes big enough to put a straw through
  3. On a second bottle cap, use scissors to cut two holes and with the pencil, make one of them big enough to fit a straw through
  4. Place three bottles in a row. Label the bottles, left to right, “atrium,” “ventricle,” and “body”
  5. Fill the atrium and ventricle bottles about 80% full with the “blood”
  6. Put the two large-holed cap on the bottle in the middle (ventricle) and the two hole, one large/one small, on the bottle to the left (atrium). The bottle on the right has no cap
  7. Stick a bendy straw in the atrium bottle. Connect the straw to another straw that will go into the first hole of the ventricle bottle
  8. Place another straw in the other hole of the ventricle bottle and connect that with another straw which will go into the body bottle
  9. Tape the straws at their seam
  10. If you need to, use playdough to create an airtight seam where the straws meet the bottle caps
  11. Squeeze the ventricle (middle bottle) and pinch the straw that connects the atrium and ventricle bottles (first two bottles)
  12. Now pinch the straw between the ventricle and the body bottles (second and third bottles) while still squeezing the ventricle (middle bottle)
  13. While still pinching the straw (in step 13), release the ventricle (middle bottle)
  14. Repeat!


What did you notice when you squeezed the ventricle and pinched the straw between the atrium and ventricle?

What happened when you squeezed the ventricle and pinched the straw between the ventricle and the body?

Check your pulse for 10 seconds, and then try to mimic the rhythm of your heartbeat with your heart model. Were you successful?

Books to Explore

Use the library collection to learn more about the heart and circulatory system!

Human Body Experiment by Pam Walker Request

The Circulatory System by Joseph Midthun Request

Circulatory System by Simon Rose Request

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