Hearts are in the Air—For Science!

It’s not quite Valentines Day, but one GPS science class took a deeper look at the heart—sheep hearts, that is!
Last week sixth-grade students in Mrs. Tugman’s class dissected sheep hearts during a session led and instructed by special guest and GPS alumna Dr. Kelly Rowden Richardson ’90.

Dr. Richardson, a cardiologist at Memorial Hospital, gave the class a brief lesson on the heart’s anatomy and physiology before the girls hit the lab tables. Explaining how the heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood and beats about 100,000 times per day, Dr. Richardson explained how the heart has to be in good shape to do that. “The heart is like a muscle, so if you work it, it’ll get bigger,” she says, deducing that this is often why athletes have large hearts.

She also taught the girls about the pathway of blood through the heart and, consequently, clarified the differences between arteries and veins. She provided girls with mnemonic devices to help remember relevant information such as “a-arteries, a-away” because arteries carry blood away from the heart.

“I really appreciated having Dr. Richardson come in and share so much with the girls,” says Kipton Lankford Tugman ’92, science teacher. “I have not performed a formal dissection with sixth grade in the past. Having someone so knowledgeable about the heart made the experience very rewarding for the girls and me.”

Dr. Richardson moved back to Chattanooga this summer from California and has a sixth-grade daughter, Eliana Tabibiazar ’25, at GPS, who is a student in Mrs. Tugman’s class. The GPS student and her mother had practiced dissecting a sheep heart at home.

“I overheard Eliana telling her group members about the parts of the heart, beyond what we had discussed in class,” Tugman says. “It was exciting to see her take a leadership role in her group and help her classmates beyond what was required.”

The fellow GPS alumna had reached out to Mrs. Tugman about leading the lab activity and also offered to provide the hearts. “I used to lead similar visits in schools in California,” Dr. Richardson says. “I really enjoyed those opportunities, so I am excited to continue that here in Chattanooga.”

Dr. Richardson also says she enjoyed her time at GPS and is happy for her daughter to experience it, too. “It’s fun to be back; it’s different, but in many ways it’s still the same. And it’s great to be able to send Eliana here,” she says.