Nurses, students share time

FAIRMONT – A group of fifth-graders at Fairmont Elementary School used a class period Wednesday to learn about health and nutrition – and have a little fun, courtesy of eight college nursing students.

The class originally was offered as an after-school activity through Fairmont Community Education and Recreation, but “nobody signed up,” said Dr. Stacey Van Gelderen, assistant professor at Minnesota State-Mankato’s School of Nursing.

Van Gelderen, who mentors students through their pediatric studies, approached some elementary teachers about incorporating the class into their curriculum and received a positive response.

On Wednesday, eight MSU students split Adam Williamson’s fifth-grade class into four groups. The young students rotated through four learning stations, dealing with different aspects of health.

The first station found the fifth-graders locating their pulse and counting their heart beats to determine their pulse rate. After exercising, and “working the heart,” they took a second pulse rate, noting the increased number of beats per minute.

Dental hygiene, including brushing and flossing, was covered at another station.

The fifth-graders found out just how well they washed and rinsed their hands at the third station. The MSU students used a special soap and a black light to show any remaining soap on hands.

Healthy snacks were the focus of the final station. Participants stuck toothpicks through mini marshmallows, popcorn and donut-shaped cereal, then inserted the toothpicks in half an apple to create a “turkey” snack.

Van Gelderen said elementary school teachers have welcomed the nursing students and the instruction they offer. Each week, a different group of MSU students lead the class with a different age group of elementary students.

“The (MSU) students are responsible to come up with an age-appropriate activity,” she said. “They have to come up with that on their own. They have to have a snack and help them prepare it. They have to teach about heart health and physical activity.

The joint CER/MSU program also teaches the nursing students leadership skills, Van Gelderen said.

“Nurses teach about health, and this is one way to expose them to teaching,” she said.