While pointing to a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, University of West Georgia (UWG) nursing student Linda Burnett told a group of Carrollton Elementary School students how much sugar is in the popular soft drink.
“If we drank a bottle of Coke every day for a year, we would have consumed 30 pounds of sugar,” said Burnett. “That’s a lot of weight isn’t it? Would you want all this sugar in your body? It’ll make you sick.”
“Not only does it make you sick, it turns into this fat — this gloopy, gloppy stuff,” said UWG nursing student Sharonita Hudson while holding a prop showing how much fat is in a bottle of soda. “It will be all in your body. It’ll go around your heart. It’ll make you tired. So when you want to run and play with your friends, would you be able to?”
“No!” the students shouted.
“You’re going to feel so weighed down because you’re going to have all this fat built up,” said Hudson. “We don’t want that right? What’s a good way to decrease our fat besides eating healthy? What can we do?”
“Run around the block,” said one student.
“Yes, exercise,” said Hudson. “Not only do we want to eat healthy, we want to exercise.”
This lesson was part of an interactive exhibit created by Tanner Health System’s Get Healthy, Live Well. The Kids Exhibit is an engaging experience for kids ages 6 to 12 that teaches them about healthy lifestyles in a fun and exciting way. Students from UWG’s Tanner Health System School of Nursing joined Get Healthy, Live Well staff at Carrollton Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 17, to teach students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program how to make healthy choices.
The Carrollton City School System has a K-12 STEM focus with programs that integrate science, technology, engineering and math at all grade levels. There are STEM-related programs at Carrollton’s elementary, middle, junior high and high schools. In 2013, Carrollton Elementary School became the first K-3 elementary school in the state to become Georgia Department of Education STEM-certified, joining only six other K-12 schools statewide.
Get Healthy, Live Well’s Kids Exhibit, which can be scheduled to appear at libraries and schools in west Georgia, features nine educational stations through which kids can rotate. Several stations focus on nutrition. For example, students learn how to create a balanced plate of food and what it takes to actually burn a certain amount of calories.
There is also a station called “Rethink Your Drink” that illustrates how much sugar is in popular beverages, such as juices and sodas.
Other stations focus on fitness fun. Students can try out balance boards, test their flexibility or challenge themselves to do sit-ups and push-ups. They also get to jump rope and then observe their bodies’ reactions, from feeling winded to sweating.
Among the exhibit’s highlights is the anti-tobacco station, which features real pig lungs — one that is healthy and another that was simulated to show what smoking does to a lung.
“The Kids Exhibit is designed to help kids grow up to be healthy teens and adults,” said Patricia Mitchell, wellness and prevention coordinator at Tanner Health System. “It’s important that kids start making healthier choices now that will develop into healthy habits.”
Carrollton Elementary STEM teacher Annette Perkins is grateful to Get Healthy, Live Well for bringing the Kids Exhibit to her classroom.
“What’s so wonderful for me to see is how excited the children are about it and that they are bringing this knowledge back home to their parents,” said Perkins. “We have 1,600 kids in our STEM labs so 1,600 kids are bringing this message home to their parents about how we shouldn’t smoke and how we have to eat healthy. I think the kids are really buying into it.”
STEM teacher Joseph Benefield stressed that the lessons learned during the Kids Exhibit are things adults need to hear too.
“Kids are getting it now, but there are adults who don’t know how to eat right,” said Benefield. “When we did the portion size, I looked at that portion size and was like, ‘Why haven’t I known this?’ This is important information that we need to have. I can’t thank Tanner enough for providing the kids with the opportunity to see it.”