Kleinberg Primary teacher puts heart into history

Kleinberg Primary School’s Grade 6B class in the surgical theatre, in The Heart of Cape Town Museum, where Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant.

A Kleinberg Primary School teacher’s innovative way of making a history lesson fun led to an unexpected field trip for her class.

Kelsey Burger got her Grade 6B class to perform “open heart surgery” as part of a lesson on medical discoveries and the first heart transplant performed Dr Christiaan Barnard in December 1967. She recorded the lesson and posted it on TikTok.

“I wanted to make it a fun experience for the class, and instead of just explaining it to pupils, I decided to get them all involved,” she said.

Dressed in scrubs, shoe covers, gloves, and masks, the pupils had to administer “anaesthetics”, cut open “chest cavities” that Ms Burger had made from dough and remove heart-shaped jelly sweets.

The pupils then stitched up the “chest cavities” with a surgical needle and thread.

When Dr Barnard carried out the first heart transplant in 1967 at Groote Schuur Hospital, he captured the attention of the world, and the procedure carried out by Kleinberg Primary School pupils did not go unnoticed.

The TikTok video caught the attention of the head of the UCT’s clinical skills centre, Dr Marvin Jansen, who invited the pupils for a tour of the centre and a visit to The Heart of Cape Town Museum, both at Groote Schuur Hospital.

The museum honours all those who played a major role in the surgical feat that pushed the boundaries of science.

“The visit was so much fun, and the children were so engaging,” Dr Jansen said.

Ms Burger’s use of simple materials to turn a mundane topic into something the children would long remember was brilliant, he said.

“I am a firm believer in the transformative power of education, and therefore I use TikTok as an educational vehicle to reach the youth. I want to commend Ms Burger for her willingness to go the extra mile for her class.”

The class visited Groote Schuur Hospital on Monday December 4, and Dr Jansen took the children on a tour of the clinical skills centre where the children practiced CPR on resuscitation dummies. At The Heart of Cape Town Museum, the children visited the actual surgical theatre in which Dr Barnard did the first heart transplant.

“They were so excited and had so much fun. On our way home, some of the children were saying, ‘You can just call me doctor,’” said Ms Burger.

Grade 6B pupil Azraa Manuel’s favourite part was watching the short film on the operation.

“It just shows that anything is possible without anyone saying you can or can’t do anything,” she said.

Another pupil, Taahirah Levendal, said seeing how medicine worked was “mind-changing” and inspired her to become a doctor.

Skylar Arnolds said the visit was “very inspiring” as she wanted to become a doctor.

Kleinberg Primary School principal Denzil van Graan said he was grateful for the quality teachers at the school.

“I’m grateful that teachers at the school can make lessons fun and practical which widens the understanding of the pupils,” he said.

He said Ms Burger used great initiative to teach a complex subject which enabled the pupils to acquire new skills and understanding.

Head of the UCT’s clinical skills centre at Groote Schuur Hospital, Dr Marvin Jansen, with Kleinberg Primary School Grade 6B teacher Kelsey Burger.
Kleinberg Primary School’s Grade 6B pupils with a resuscitation dummy in the clinical skills centre at Groote Schuur Hospital.
The donor heart used by Dr Christiaan Barnard on display at The Heart of Cape Town Museum.
Kleinberg Primary School’s Grade 6B class at the clinical skills centre with teacher Kelsey Burger, left, and head of the UCT’s clinical skills centre, Dr Marvin Jansen, right.
A screenshot of Kelsey Burger’s Tik Tok video showing the “chest cavity” with the “human heart” inside.

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