Healthworks: New approach to health education

Published 11:15 am Thursday, April 15, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles Community Schools has been participating in an innovative approach to health education through its involvement with the Healthworks Kids Museum.
The school district's first through sixth grade health curriculum is being completed entirely through its involvement with the museum.
The HealthWorks Kids Museum, located at 111 W. Jefferson Blvd. in downtown South Bend, Ind., is a 12,000 square foot center that offers hands-on, interactive exhibits and classroom presentations, which aim to help students understand the choices they make today will effect the quality of their lives in the future.
The exhibits and presentations help kids to explore their bodies from their heads to their toes through fun and interactive explanations of how and why their bodies work the way they do.
On Wednesday morning, four classes of Ballard Elementary third graders visited HealthWorks for three hours to learn about making healthy choices. The classes were divided into two groups that split time exploring the exhibits of the museum and going into a classroom for a lesson which taught them that character development is a key to living a healthy life.
Niles was one of the pilot school districts for HealthWorks and school officials have been very pleased with their partnership thus far. Mike Squint, a math and science consultant for Niles Community Schools, has been working closely with the museum since it opened four years ago. "It is a very active kind of instruction. We don't just sit and lecture at them. All of the kids are actively participating," Squint said. "This is very hard thing to do in the classroom."
Each trip to the museum has a different theme and Squint said it is easy to see how much the students progress from visit to visit.
With the help of HealthWorks, Squint has been tracking the growth of each student by recording their height, weight and physical abilities like how high they can jump and how long they can hang. This allows the students to see how they are developing and how to stay on track for a healthy lifestyle.
Squint said visits to the museum also help students in areas other than health education.
Niles Community Schools also completes its reproductive health education for fifth and sixth grade students at HealthWorks.
Craig said the district's reproductive health curriculum is totally abstinence-based and is taught by doctors and nurses, who follow the outlines developed cooperatively by the school district and HealthWorks officials.
Parents have the choice of letting their children attend the reproductive health education trips and the school district always holds parent information nights at HealthWorks prior to the field trips to inform them of what will be going on.
Craig said Niles Community Schools' involvement in Healthworks is made possible by the generous efforts of the Hunter Foundation, a local community organization that funds the schools' trips to the museum.
Because of Niles' continued involvement with the health center, Craig said HealthWorks has been very flexible in adapting its programs to meet the needs of the school district's curriculum.