Northern students know the cardiovascular system by heart

Northern students know the cardiovascular system by heart

LINCOLN - Students at Northern Lincoln Elementary School now know their tickers inside and out, thanks to a larger-than-life display that was the heartbeat of the school last Friday, June 7.

Classes filed in and out of the gymnasium, where the inflatable 15-by-21-by-12-foot Mega Heart from Organs on Tour sat for the day, a steady beat coming from the speakers. Later that evening, parents and children returned for bonus lessons on CPR, blood pressure and dental health.

Cathy Grinham and her daughter Colleen led the program.

"What we're trying to do is educate children early on of anatomy, physiology and what's going on with their own bodies," Grinham said, so they can take ownership of their own health.

The lesson touched on mechanical aspects of the heart - its chambers and valves - as well as what the blood does. They explained the cardiovascular system, as well as what could potentially go wrong if the heart is not kept healthy with exercise and proper diet.

Grinham led each group in different stretches and jumps that had them act out blood's path through the body. It's like the post office, she said, because it delivers oxygen. But no magazines, as one student pointed out.

Then students got to explore the heart itself, entering through the superior vena cava, and exiting out the aorta.

The heart was brought to the elementary school through Lifespan Community Health, who was looking to share the organ for one day of its two-day loan for the Rhode Island Hospital 150th anniversary year Health and Safety Community Outreach Fair in Providence the next day, June 8.

Cardiac coordinator Marianne Stepanian said she had worked with the school before, and knew how well they would be able to incorporate it into its day.

"If anyone could, it would be this one," she said.

School nurse Rita Kinniburgh organized the event.

"It is absolutely fabulous," Kinniburgh said. "I was surprised it was beating, myself."

Deb Reddy, the school's physical education teacher, said having the heart make a stop in Lincoln was "the pinnacle" of a year of cardiovascular education.

At the beginning of the year, students hold their chests and feel their hearts beating fast during gym class, she explained, but they have gotten stronger throughout the year.

"We focus on cardiovascular endurance, trying to keep it super healthy. Now they get to actually see what they've actually made stronger this year," Reddy said. "This is the pinnacle of the whole year, the culminating event for the whole year of fitness."