A team of Michigan Tech students visited local elementary, middle, and high school classrooms as part of state and national outreach efforts to increase awareness about health science and public health. Steven Elmer, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, organized the visits to coincide with the Michigan-Indiana Physiology Understanding Week and National Rural Health Day. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students engaged local students in hands-on activities focused on learning about how the human body works, healthy living behaviors, noninfectious and infectious diseases, and community health.
Kate Meister, a senior pre-health and human biology student, visited 4th grade students at Houghton Elementary School where she taught students about their own heartbeat. Students were led through an activity where they partnered up and crafted a do-it-yourself stethoscope from plastic funnels, balloons, and rubber tubing. The students were able to listen to their partner’s heartbeat through the stethoscope they created and learned more about the impact that exercise has on heart rate.
Kyle Wehmanen and Gwyn Hamlin, graduate students in kinesiology, used a slightly different approach involving the popular game Jenga to engage students at the local middle and high schools. That is, Wehmanen and Hamlin taught students about the importance of healthy living behaviors (physical activity, good nutrition, healthy body weight, not smoking) and impact of both noninfectious (heart disease, obesity, diabetes) and infectious (influenza, COVID-19) diseases on community health. By adding blocks that represented healthy living behaviors, the Jenga towers became stronger and were more resilient when blocks were removed that represented various diseases. Hamlin also talked about her journey from a Houghton High School student to Michigan Tech graduate student who will earn her degree in a few weeks to working in the Cardiac Rehabilitation unit at UP Health System Portage.
Felix Cottet-Puinel, a graduate student in kinesiology from Morzine, France, also assisted with the outreach activities and said that communicating health science and public health related concepts to different age ranges required creativity, presented some challenges, and was very rewarding. Several other students including Tyler Hampton, Isaac Wedig, and Noelle St. Pierre also participated in the outreach activities.
Together, the outreach team visited Houghton, Lake Linden, Dollar Bay, and Chassell schools and connected with over 225 students ranging from 4th to 12th grade. “These outreach events are critical to generating student interest in health science and public health focused careers as there is a major shortage of health professionals in rural areas like the Upper Peninsula”, explained Kelly Kamm, Portage Health Endowed Assistant Professor and Epidemiologist in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology.
As society continues to build forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, health focused outreach with local schools is key to generating more interest in health, science, technology, engineering, and math (H-STEM). Looking ahead, Michigan Tech’s new H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2024. The new building will provide state-of-the-art teaching and research labs to advance learning, develop new technologies, and prepare a skilled workforce for tomorrow.
For more information about scheduling a health science and public health outreach visit to your classroom contact Tayler Haapapuro, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology Academic Advisor and Outreach Coordinator via phone (906-487-3169) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).