Southern Ohio Medical Center recently hosted the 10th Annual Love Your Heart event, April 20 and 21. Since 2000, the program has used a Wizard of Oz theme to educate more than 10,000 five and six-year-old children about healthy heart habits.
Debbie O’Dell, kindergarten teacher at Portsmouth West, has brought her classes to Love Your Heart since the program started ten years ago. She explained that it’s good for her students to take a field trip and learn outside of the classroom.
“My students love coming to SOMC to learn about their hearts,” O’Dell said. “A lot of people don’t take care of their hearts and I think it’s due to a lack of education. If you teach the students while they are young, then they are more likely to utilize this knowledge as adults.”
When the schools arrived at the SOMC Friends Community Center, they were greeted by the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, Dorothy and other characters from the Wizard of Oz. The children learned that the Tin Man received a new heart and that he needs to learn how to take care of it. After the opening program, small groups were led through five different interactive stations where they learned how to feed, see, hear, feel and exercise their hearts.
“By using a storybook theme to present the information, SOMC staff assisted children in developing their cognitive learning skills,” Christy Aeh, nurse manager of ICU and program director for Love Your Heart, said. “This approach to teaching has been so successful that in May 2001, the ICU staff received the Seabury and Smith, Inc., Community Service Award, for our efforts in teaching area children about heart health.”
“Love Your Heart stemmed from the education team of the Intensive Care Unit,” Tony Smith, assistant nurse manager of the ICU, said. “I portray Tin Man every year and I really enjoy teaching the students and creating a connection between Tin Man’s heart and theirs.”
Schools from Wheelersburg, Northwest, Stanton, Clay, Notre Dame, South Webster, Green, Valley Portsmouth City and Minford brought 1,150 children to this year’s event. SOMC nursing staff and nursing students from Shawnee State University, Collins Career Center, Pike County, Rio Grande and Ohio University nursing students volunteered their time to help the event run smoothly.
“I think Love Your Heart is a great program and good education for kids,” Sarah Fox, SSU student volunteer and nurse resident at SOMC, said. “My niece came last year and she kept talking about how much fun it was.”
“Love Your Heart has proven to be one of the most successful programs conducted for kindergarten-aged children in the Scioto County area,” Aeh added. “We are grateful that SOMC can provide such a wonderful program for our community and we look forward to planning Love Your Heart 2011.”