Children learn healthy habits in “Body Walk”
Tonganoxie grade school children recently took a field trip inside the human body.
They sat in a dimly lit gray tent where flashing lights taught them about brain waves. They walked through a room-sized mouth and learned about dental care. They snaked through tunnels that mimicked the body's stomach and intestines.
"Body Walk," a traveling exhibit developed and operated by Nutrition Services, Kansas State Department of Education, provides an opportunity for children to learn about their bodies and the importance of making healthy decisions.
Jodi Mackey, team leader for nutrition services, and Joyce Kemnitz, the project director, designed "Body Walk," starting with ideas from other states and making it user friendly for children, said Kathy Kinsch, program consultant.
"They decided it was something we needed here to use to educate our kids about eating better and keeping their bodies in shape," Kinsch said.
A federal grant paid for construction of the exhibit, which is offered to schools for a user fee of $100 to $300, depending on the number of students.
Now in its first year of touring Kansas, Body Walk is scheduled to appear in 136 schools. A waiting list promises to keep the exhibit on the road for a second year.
Tonganoxie Elementary School nurse Stephanie Hebert said it was the exhibit's striking appearance that prompted her to want to bring it to Tonganoxie.
"It was the 'Wow Factor' that this was really cool," Hebert said.
In Tonganoxie, about 500 students from second grade through fifth grade toured Body Walk.
"It was nice to see not only the second graders enjoyed it, but the fifth graders were excited about it, too," Hebert said.
Depending on their age, children seemed to learn different things.
"The second graders came back saying 'This was really cool,'" Hebert said. "But the fifth graders would come back saying how many bones were in their bodies."
Hebert said she almost had misgivings, during the planning stage, when she was told she'd need at least 22 volunteers to run the exhibit, and more to set it up and take it down.
She tapped into all the volunteers she could find. Some helped for a few hours, and others stayed with the project from start to finish.
Set up, which takes about three hours, is done the night before, after Tami Meiners, a project manager, delivers it to the school.
Then, the exhibit ran from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. the next day. And, after closing, volunteers spent an hour and a half packing it up.
The work was worth it, said Hebert.
"I feel strongly that kids aren't necessarily making the best choices when it comes to nutrition," Hebert said.
Hebert said she hopes to bring Body Walk back to Tonganoxie in a few years.
Following are some of the grade school students' written impressions about the exhibit:
Shelby Heskett, fifth grade: The Body Walk was fun! Especially when we were the mouth sitting on teeth and seeing how much sugar is in some foods.
In the lungs when we saw the black lung, that was kind of gross, but cool. In the skin, when they sprayed fake germs on our hands, we got to shake everyone's hands and see how fast germs spread. Those were my favorite parts of Body Walk.