The fifth-graders at Northwoods Fine Arts Academy learned all about heart health on Friday, from perhaps an unlikely source — Charles Page High School students.
Northwoods hosted the older students as part of the Health Occupation Students of America’s Heart Health Day.
The high school students representing HOSA, along with their sponsor and teacher, Matt Watkins, led the fifth-graders through a series of rotations to learn about the heart, according to Amanda Webster, a fifth-grade teacher at Northwoods.
She said the younger students discovered that what they do through activity and while at rest affects the heart.
Students tried out a heart monitor, had their blood pressure taken, tested their grip strength, experienced a Doppler ultrasound, tried out a respiration belt and even got to dissect an animal heart.
“Some of the kids were a little freaked out by the heart, honestly, but they loved the excitement of getting to try on the heart monitor, do the gripping and hear their heartbeats through the Doppler,” Webster said.
The students in each of three fifth-grade classes who attended the all-afternoon event received a token at each of the “stations” they visited — either a small toy or a piece of candy, Webster said.
But it’s hard to know who received the bigger gift, she said — the younger students who got a great lesson delivered by their older peers, the older students who gained hands-on experience in what might become their chosen career field, or the adults in the room who marveled over the exchanges and interactions between the two groups of students.
“It was Mr. Watkins who remarked about the younger kids: ‘Just look at their eyes. They’re holding onto every word’” from the older students, Webster said.
“You could see it in their eyes and in their participation,” she said, adding that it was extra exciting to see students who had been in her classroom just a few short years ago now speaking with ease and confidence about complicated subjects.
The afternoon was a “trial run,” of sorts, the first time the HOSA group has taken its show on the road, Webster said, but repeats seem likely, based on the program’s success.
She added that it was a great way to expose the younger children early to the potential health careers that could await them.
“In our setting, they may have never even thought about that before,” she said.
Webster noted that even Superintendent Sherry Durkee and Assistant Superintendent Shawn Beard stopped by to take part in the fun.
“I just think that’s really cool,” she said.
Durkee did acknowledge having lost a grip-strength competition to Beard, but she said the event’s positives far outweighed that defeat.
“It was so fun,” she said. “It was fun to participate but even more fun to see the interaction between the high school students and the little ones.
“And of course that’s what we’re trying to promote, that continuity,” she said.
Durkee said she was proud of how the high school students “were articulating body systems and how the body’s supposed to work.”
“It was amazing how well our students were able to articulate those things to our fifth-grade students.”