Road show helps foster healthy habits
Kristen Shriner and Rowdy Boatwright now know more about staying safe than they did before.
The two -- and about 60 other first-graders at Tonganoxie Elementary School -- participated in the Kansas Learning Center For Health's "On the Road" program which visited their school on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As a culmination of Tuesday morning's first-grade lesson about the importance of being careful around strangers, first-graders made zebra sock puppets to take home with them.
Megan Evans, executive director of Kansas Learning Center for Health, said the "On the Road" program offers students lessons geared to help them make healthy lifestyle choices.
KLCH educators Cindy Foster and De Ann Huxman, who work for the 6-year-old program, travel to schools, working with students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The visits include different lessons for different age groups. Topics include being wary of strangers and the health hazards of cigarette smoking, including how the use of tobacco affects bones, lungs and even cells. And the course, which spends about an hour with each grade level, even takes a look at genetics.
The lessons are accompanied by hands-on activities. For instance, the sixth-graders use marshmallows to make a genetics project.
Last year, KLCH also started up another traveling program, which is called "Life's a Gamble," which was designed for students in seventh grade through 12th grade. That program's topics teach students to identify positive and negative behaviors and actions, and it talks about bullying. And, depending on what lessons schools ask KLCH to teach -- the program can talk about tobacco, alcohol, drugs and sex.
Meanwhile, the program for the elementary school children has been catching on.
"Last year we saw about 21,000 kids in 'On the Road' alone," Evans said.
She noted the traveling program is an offshoot of the KLCH facility in Halstead, where 5,000 to 6,000 children come each year to learn about health.
The center, which started up in 1965, includes "Valeda the transparent woman," Evans said.
Valeda is similar to a mannequin, but her internal organs are visible.
KLCH is privately funded, Evans said. And schools that sign up for the traveling program pay $450 a day.
Evans said she wished there were a waiting list of schools requesting the traveling program.
"Unfortunately, with the finances that schools are in right now, it's a little bit harder for them to go ahead and pay for even a program that doesn't charge very much," Evans said.
The program is worth the cost, she added. It includes lessons taught either by certified teachers, or by someone who has extensive classroom experience.
"We reach every student in the school," Evans said. "They all get to take something home with them, so hopefully they go home and tell their parents or guardians what they learned in the class. That helps to solidify that information, as well."
TES nurse Stephanie Hebert said this was the first year "On the Road" has visited the school.
"What I've seen I really liked," Hebert said. "I've heard good feedback from the teachers. It's organized; it's well planned out."
And, Hebert said, she hopes the program can become an annual presentation at the grade school.
"The way it is, with them teaching different things on each grade level, if they come back next year, the kids will see something different."