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Widener Education Students Team up with Main Line Health to Pilot Health Curriculum on Chester Sixth Graders

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Widener education major Kara Goldenhorn, left, helps Stetser sixth grader Mia, center, use a blood pressure cuff.

Wearing medical scrubs and lab coats, sixth grade students from Chester Upland's Stetser Elementary School imparted health and wellness advice to the Chester community at a health fair held January 15 at the school. The fair marked the culmination of a semester-long partnership between Widener University's School of Education, Innovation and Continuing Studies and Main Line Health to pilot "Healthy Me," a health and wellness curriculum for middle school-aged students designed by Dr. Barry Mann, chief academic officer for Main Line Health.

Throughout the fall semester, Main Line Health representatives joined Widener education students in Dr. Nadine McHenry's Implementing the Middle School Curriculum course to roll out "Healthy Me" lessons to Stetser sixth graders. Lessons took place twice a week. Then on Fridays, the Widener students partnered with a Stetser student or two to delve deeper into a health topic. They channeled this knowledge into interactive presentations for the health fair.

"We brought our own laptops to our meetings so that our student partners could research their topics online and use them for their presentations," said Widener sophomore Alicia Jenkins. Jenkins' partner, sixth grader Iyana Spaulding, used the computer during the health fair to display a PowerPoint presentation on heart disease. Other students developed a Prezi and administered quizzes based on their topics using iPads on loan from Widener. Stetser Principal Janet Baldwin cited this exposure to technology as just one of the many ways her students benefited from the pilot program.

According to Mann, his vision for the pilot program was to bring Widener students into Stetser to serve as role models and to help the Stetser students develop reading, math and presentation skills while focusing on their health and the health of their families.

"I'm not going to eat fast food anymore," said sixth grader Raymond McCaskill of what he took away from the health lessons. "I learned that some of it stays in our bodies for months. We can't process it right."

McCaskill's classmate Kayla Jones said that she learned how lung cancer spreads and ways to prevent it. "I learned that exercise and eating healthy is important and not to be around second-hand smoke," she said. "Smoking is bad – period."

Widener and Main Line Health plan to maintain their partnership to continue refining and teaching the "Healthy Me" lessons to Stetser students. McHenry sees the immediate next steps as providing feedback about the curriculum to Main Line Health based on the experiences of her students. She also plans to recruit upper-level Widener nursing majors to aid her education students in teaching the health lessons again next year.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free campus. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu.